Sunday, January 20, 2008

FOMC meeting agenda

The Open Market Committee has eight regularly scheduled meetings a year. The week before the members gather, they are sent the “green book,” with the staff’s economic outlook, and also the “blue book,” with a menu of policy options. The other governors, whose offices are down the hallway from Bernanke’s, typically know which way the chairman will be leaning. But the bank presidents, who generally do not confer between meetings, often arrive in Washington with no firm idea of what Bernanke wants. The group assembles around a massive, 27-foot Honduran-mahogany table in the conference room, which adjoins the chairman’s office, and at 8:30 a.m. the room falls silent, a side door opens and Bernanke enters. After briefings from the staff, the members go around the table as if it were a Princeton seminar, each expounding on his or her view of the economy (transcripts of Bernanke meetings are running much longer than those under Greenspan). The bank presidents give an idea of conditions around the country, and the governors tend to coalesce around Bernanke’s view. In Greenspan’s era, the chairman led off by giving a lengthy disquisition of his outlook and policy recommendations. Every member had a chance to speak after him, but the pressure to agree with the maestro was daunting. In a profound switch, Bernanke now presents his views last.

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