The financial markets will all be focusing on one man Friday morning, and we'll be here to cover it.
Two years after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced plans for a massive second round of monetary stimulus -- so called QE2 -- at a yearly Fed summit in Jackson Hole, Wyo., the world's most powerful central banker returns, with markets primed for him to deliver on even more stimulus.
The main event is a speech by Bernanke at 10:00 a.m. New York time which, in the absence of major developments elsewhere in the world of high finance, has been highly hyped over the past two weeks.
Most large bank analysts expect Bernanke to disappoint. Goldman Sachs, for example, believes the chairman will not announce a new round of monetary easing, but that the speech will nonetheless "be consistent with a high probability that Fed officials will ease monetary policy further" and could even "open the door to unconventional easing," like nominal GDP or output targeting.
The markets are surely expecting something, with Bank of America analysts calculating Friday morning stocks have priced in an 85 percent probability of QE3. A big divergence from what the market is expecting will be grounds for a big sell-off Friday afternoon.
So, the big question remains: Will he or won't he?
Come back at 10 a.m. for minute-by-minute coverage of the chairman's speech.
11:35 - And that concludes our live Jackson Hole coverage. In short, QE3 was not announced, but after an aggressive defense of central banking that concluded policy would be used "as needed," the markets still rallied.
11:33 - Various analysts this morning noted how an unexpected part of Bernanke's speech was its full-throated defence of the effectiveness of Fed policy. The Chairman did not back down from making statements that the 'End the Fed' crowd can use against him. Interesting specially as the speech also admits the knowledge central bankers have using unconventional tools is very limited.
11:22 - It seems all the pundits -- the ones that predicted the markets would rally, as well as the ones who said Bernanke would disappoint -- are claiming they were right. Goldman Sachs, which had predicted the speech would detail potential future easing pathways (which the speech did not) wrote to clients that "the [speech's] final note was dovish, with Bernanke emphasizing that "we must not lose sight of the daunting economic challenges that confront our nation" and professing "grave concern" with the weak labor market and the potential structural damage that could result from persistently high unemployment."
11:06 - 10 minutes ago, Bill Gross of world's largest asset manager PIMCO tweets "#Bernanke to go out with his guns blazing. #QE3 a near certainty. It will be open-ended but increasingly impotent."
11:00 - Precious metals are rallying hard following Bernanke's speech. Gold has gone up 1.21 percent to $1665.80 per ounce over the past hour. Silver had an even bigger ramping, up 1.91 in the past 60 minutes.
10:40 - A word cloud to understand what just happened in the markets. Below, a graphical representation of the most-used words in Bernanke's speech. Since words like "accomodation" and "holdings" were used lass than words like "expectations" and "recovery", computers crunching through the speech interpreted it as bullish. When actual traders finished reading it, the appreciation changed. Flash-reading: the most valuable skill on Wall Street today.
Bernanke speech word cloud
10:29 - And it seems the bounce-back in stocks is due to the last sentence in the prepared remarks that "the Federal Reserve will provide additional policy accommodation as needed to promote a stronger economic recovery." As needed the two most contentious words in the world of finance at the moment. The dollar is still selling off.
10:21 - Stocks are back as Wall Street has had some time to digest the prepared notes. Treasury notes and other fixed income assets are up as market-watchers now begin to discuss if Bernanke's yet-to-be-uttered words mean there's likely to be asset purchases at the Fed meeting in a few days.
10:17 - Bernanke, apparently taking in the pristine Wyoming landscape before his most anticipated speech this year, has still not reached the podium. In the meantime, the sentence in his prepared speech that is causing the market sell-off: "These [monetary policy] considerations include the need to take out insurance against the realization of downside risks, which are particularly difficult to manage when rates are close to their effective lower bound; the possibility that, because of various unusual headwinds slowing the recovery, the economy needs more policy support than usual at this stage of the cycle; and the need to compensate for limits to policy accommodation resulting from the lower bound on rates." In plain English: we know we have work to do, but we'd be crazy not to take it slowly.
10:09 - The U.S. stock market indices have returned all of the morning's gains and are now in the red. Benchmark treasury bonds are see-sawing and the dollar is selling off. European markets, where the rally started early this morning are also retreating.
10:06 - Prepared remarks show Goldman was right in its crystal ball assesment. Speech appears to focus on "lessons learned." Bernanke: "I'll discuss what we have learned about the efficacy and drawbacks of these less familiar forms of monetary policy." The Chairman is still walking to the podium.
10:01 - The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up over 100 points and dropped steeply the second the embargo on Bernanke's prepared notes was lifted. Bernanke still walking to the podium.
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