Mr. Bernanke made clear that while the Fed could take various steps, including large purchases of government debt, “central bankers alone cannot solve the world’s economic problems.” Speaking at the Fed’s annual symposium here, he hinted broadly that political leaders had to take steps to tackle the deficit and the trade imbalance.
Mr. Bernanke said the Fed, having kept short-term interest rates at nearly zero since 2008, had essentially four options:
It can purchase more government debt and long-term securities. It can try to coax down long-term interest rates by announcing its intention to keep short-term rates extremely low for even longer than the markets currently expect. It can lower the interest rate it pays on the funds banks hold at the Fed. And it can raise its medium-term target for inflation, which would discourage banks from sitting on their cash.
Mr. Bernanke suggested that the first of those options was the most likely, and all but ruled out the last two.