What's the big deal about Wednesday? Sure advance television coverage of William and Kate's wedding will be in full swing, but the nuptials will be trivial compared to the other big event of the week, at least in the world's money centers. Financial professionals and reporters around the globe will be glued to their televisions and computer screens on Wednesday. Trillions of dollars, euros, yen, yuan, pounds, loonies, kiwi, and other currencies will be poised to move in reaction to every word U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke utters in his first-ever news conference. This event will captivate financial junkies like the royal wedding will mesmerize romance novel readers. And it's far more important . . . but it shouldn't be.
There's more to the interest in this event than the novelty of it being the first of its kind. Fortunes have been made and lost reading the Federal Reserve's tea leaves. Financial reporters will be able to grill Bernanke after a Federal Open Market Committee meeting to learn more about the committee's latest decisions-decisions that will affect the world. For the most part, the average Fed-watcher has been limited to reading official Fed statements and weeks-old meeting minutes to gain insight into Fed policy, while sophisticated institutions have people employed specifically to track and crunch Fed data.
Does something seem out of place here? The world will watch Ben Bernanke because a tremendous amount of power is vested in a rather secretive organization that has enormous control over monetary policy. The Fed gained its power when Congress, our elected officials, delegated this authority to a banking cartel formed in 1913, which became known as the Federal Reserve. But even under the influence of the cartel, monetary policy of the past wasn't as difficult to predict or know as it is today because the dollar was backed by gold, which imposed a set of limitations. When President Richard Nixon abandoned the last vestiges of the gold standard in 1971, Fed-watching became much more important because the Fed essentially became an authority unto itself.
So, tune in on Wednesday at 2:15 p.m. EDT when the financial world hopes to learn if the Federal Reserve plans to continue, and possibly expand, its breathtaking inflationary policies. Bernanke has no doubt been practicing for weeks to sound boring to avoid upsetting markets. It's likely to be a dull show. But while you're watching you might want to question whether it's necessary. If the nation were to return to sound money, to a traditional gold standard, there would be no need for a Fed press conference. Oh, by the way, don't forget Administrative Professionals' Day on Wednesday-an event that should be more important than the Fed press conference!