In yesterday’s press conference, Steve Liesman from CNBC asked a highly pertinent question of Chairman Bernanke. Steve asked whether the explicit focus on employment meant that the Fed was now willing to tolerate a higher inflation rate than would otherwise be the case. Bernanke answered predictably by noting that the Fed by law has a dual mandate (maximum employment consistent with stable prices). But in thinking about his comments afterwards and the way they’ve positioned themselves, it seems to be unlikely the Fed will spend any time worrying about inflation until the employment picture improves. Of course there isn’t much evidence of inflation anyway, but we are virtually assured, based on his comments, that if or when things do ultimately pick up the Fed will be a long way behind the curve in terms of raising rates. Negative real returns are here to stay for bond investors. Bernanke made the case for real assets yesterday, including gold which we own through our investment in the gold miners ETF (GDX).
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