JANUARY 26 2012 18:13h
Economic Outlook: Fickle pricing
The whole place can be going to heck in a hand basket and an intervention by the U.S. central bank can get everyone to sit up straight and tall. Or, maybe not. Sometimes investors pay a bullish tribute to the intervention. Sometimes they figure out that the intervention is a response to something pretty grim and they turn into grumpy bears.
On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's policy of greater transparency in monetary decisions paid off in spades.
The Fed in the past operated in cloak and dagger code words. It was like Economics 101 meets "National Treasure." Economists, let alone journalists, had to interpret the clues and guess whether or not a policy shift was on the way.
Not anymore. The Fed previously laid it right out there: The federal fund rate was more than likely to remain at zero to 0.25 percent through mid-2013. On Wednesday, there it was again, clean and simple: The federal fund rate will more than likely remain at historic lows through late 2014. No guesswork required there.
Curiouser and curiouser. Investors reacted strongly to the message and turned negative numbers on Wall Street into modest gains. After a two-day slide, the Dow Jones industrial average closed 83 points or 0.66 percent higher at 12,758.85.
On the other side of the Atlantic, two years of helping Greece by putting a noose around its neck in the form of austerity budgets and massive loans may soon be drawing to an end. There is no deal with creditors in sight and that deal is considered mandatory for Greece to remain eligible for international assistance.
Should it come down to it, Greece could be a enormous test case for survival after exiting the eurozone.
Greece, even if it goes into default, will likely keep eurozone membership at arm's length in anticipation of a return to the fold someday. Regardless, March 20 is the current deadline.
How much is a default already priced into the market? With no deal in sight, that may be answered soon.
In international markets Thursday, the Nikkei 225 index in Japan fell 0.39 percent, while the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia rose 1.12 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong added 1.63 percent, while the Sensex in India gained 0.48 percent.
In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain gained 0.92 percent, while the DAX 30 in Germany rose 1.52 percent. The CAC 40 in France added 1.19 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.86 percent.
ANTHONY HALL || United Press International
Investors on Wednesday showed how fickle they can be when it comes to interpreting monetary policy.