Bernanke admits 'lapse of judgement'

That, however, was what Ben Bernanke did when the Federal Reserve chairman testified to the Senate Banking Committee yesterday, when he apologised for talking to a television reporter who published his remarks and sent financial markets into turmoil.

"That episode you refer to was a lapse of judgement on my part," confessed Mr Bernanke, who took over on 1 February from Alan Greenspan at the helm of the US central bank. "In the future, my communications with the public and with the markets will be entirely through regular and formal channels."

The incident occurred at the White House Correspondents Dinner on 29 April when the Fed chairman told CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo he was disappointed with the views of some investors that he was dovish on inflation. Ms Bartiromo relayed the exchange to viewers on 1 May.

There followed a frenzy of speculation over whether the Fed really would pause in its policy of tightening interest rates as it assessed the progress of the economy - something Mr Bernanke had appeared to suggest in earlier testimony to Congress.

The Fed lifted its key short-term rate on 10 May, a 16th successive 0.25 per cent rise, to 5 per cent, and left open the prospect of more increases. The markets were then rattled by a sharp rise in the US consumer price index for April, seemingly pointing to more rate tightening.

The Fed's rate-setting bodymeets on 28 June. Mr Bernanke said there would be "a lot of data between now and then. We will be watching [it] very carefully".

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