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Feb 14, 2008 3:43 pm

Bernanke Says Economic Outlook Is Worse
Thursday February 14, 10:22 am ET
By Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer
Fed Chairman Bernanke Says Nation's Business Prospects Have Deteriorated

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Thursday that the country's economic outlook has deteriorated and signaled that the central bank is ready to keep on lowering a key interest rate -- as needed -- to shore things up.

In prepared remarks to the Senate Banking Committee, Bernanke said the one-two punch of the housing and credit crises has greatly strained the economy. Hiring has slowed and people are likely to tighten their belts further, as they are pinched by high energy prices and watch the value of their single biggest asset -- their homes -- weaken, he warned.

"The outlook for the economy has worsened in recent months, and the downside risks to growth have increased," Bernanke said. "To date, the largest economic effects of the financial turmoil appear to have been on the housing market, which, as you know, has deteriorated significantly over the past two years or so." Bernanke also said that the "virtual shutdown" of the market for subprime mortgages -- given to people with blemished credit histories or low incomes -- and a reluctance by skittish lenders to make "jumbo" home loans exceeding $417,000 have aggravated problems in the housing market.

Unsold homes have piled up and foreclosures have climbed to record highs.

"Further cuts in homebuilding and in related activities are likely," Bernanke cautioned.

Given all the dangers facing the economy, the Fed "will act in a timely manner as needed to support growth and to provide adequate insurance against downside risks," he said, indicating additional rate cuts were likely.

The Federal Reserve, which started lowering a key interest rate in September, recently turned much more aggressive. Over the span of just eight days in January, it slashed rates by 1.25 percentage points -- the biggest one-month rate reduction in a quarter-century. Economists and Wall Street investors believe the Fed will cut rates even more at its next meeting in March and probably again in April.

Bernanke said his forecast is for the economy to continue to endure a "period of sluggish growth." That would be "followed by a somewhat stronger pace of growth starting later this year" as the effects of the Fed's rate cuts and a newly enacted stimulus package begin to be felt. The $168 billion package, which includes rebates for people and tax breaks for businesses, was speedily passed by Congress last week and signed into law on Wednesday by President Bush.

Feb 14, 2008 5:02 pm

Yeah… What are you adding to portfolios to reduce correlation? My favorite because it’s easily acessible has been foreign bonds. Materials & commodities just look too darn high here, and I can come to like long-short funds. Their costs outweigh their benefits…

Feb 18, 2008 6:54 pm


Lots of cash positions. Commodities have continued to do well, due to supply and demand issues.  My accredited clients and I have been shorting the dollar,  homebuilders and finance.   I am still long BRK and USO, I have been trimming my PM's weekly into cash positions.  It is truely swing trade time if you want to stay positive...  There are several inverse funds that have been doing the shorting for brokers effectively..proshares has 2x up to 16x inverse funds that are easy to trade in and out of.