Fed chief hums and haws in historic press meet

WASHINGTON, April 27, 2011 (AFP) – His voice cracked and pinched. When necessary — most of the time — he retreated into policy jargon. With markets ready to pounce on any odd choice of words, US central bank chief Ben Bernanke was clearly nervous as he fielded reporters’ questions after a policy meeting for the first time Wednesday.

And while the markets did react — stocks jumped, the dollar dropped, and gold soared — Bernanke probably succeeded in what he set out to do: putting a human face on the Federal Reserve while not making much news.

Wearing a checked red tie, looking appropriately professorial behind a broad wooden desk rather than Washington’s more common power-stance — the bearded, balding former Princeton economist said the Fed wanted to give more transparency and accountability. To give “color and context” to its data.

And probably to rebuff politicians who use it as a punching bag with little reference to what the central bank can and cannot do in America’s worst downturn in eight decades.

“It used to be that the mystique of central banking was all about not letting anybody know what you were doing,”