RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Still, as NPR's John Ydstie reports, the gathering did yield several interesting nuggets.
JOHN YDSTIE: Chairman Bernanke conducted the press conference from a desk on a raised dais in a Fed conference room. He looked a bit like the former professor he is, fielding questions from a class numbering about 60, in this case reporters, not students. Bernanke explained why his Fed had chosen to communicate in this way.
BEN BERNANKE: I personally have always been a big believer in providing as much information as you can to help the public understand what you're doing, to help the markets understand what you're doing, and to be accountable to the public for what you're doing.
YDSTIE: At the same time, the Fed is carefully watching to make sure those policies don't spark inflation. Many economists say the QE2 stimulus hasn't worked. Bernanke disagreed, saying it's boosted economic activity, job growth and the stock market. But he made clear there's unlikely to be a QE3, another round of stimulus, because of a rising risk of inflation.
BERNANKE: It's not clear that we can get substantial improvements in payrolls without some additional inflation risk. And in my view, if we're going to have to success in creating a long-run sustainable recovery with lots of job growth, we've got to keep inflation under control.
YDSTIE: The added focus on inflation risks caught the attention of Tim Dewey, a University of Oregon professor who writes a blog called Tim Dewey Fed Watch.
TIM DEWEY: He came off to me a little bit more hawkish in some of those statements than I would have anticipated.
YDSTIE: Bernanke was asked to define what an extended period means.
BERNANKE: Extended period suggests that there would be a couple of meetings probably before action, but unfortunately the reason we use this vaguer terminology is that we don't know with certainty how quickly response will be required.
YDSTIE: Randall Kroszner, a former Fed governor, who is now a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, says that's useful news for investors.
RANDALL KROSZNER: I think it's valuable that the chairman gave a little bit more information about what he meant by extended period and that it would mean at least two meetings. That's about 12 weeks. That's about three months. So that's a useful signal to the market. That's probably the most newsworthy thing that happened.
YDSTIE: At the end of his historic press conference, Chairman Bernanke offered some sympathy to Americans suffering from economic woes.
BERNANKE: The combination of high unemployment, high gas prices and high foreclosure rates is a terrible combination. A lot of people are having a very tough time. So I can certainly understand why people are impatient.
YDSTIE: John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.