Is Ben Bernanke Incredibly Smart or Just Stupid?
Though the market rebounded slightly at the close on Friday, the week was broadly sour in large part due to the fact that QE3 appears to have been kept on the backburner. While the pot has not been turned off entirely, investors were hoping that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke would have at least taken it off simmer and tuned up the heat slightly.
That didn't happen. And Wall Street was not pleased.
Stupid Is as Stupid Does
I get asked on occasion for my opinion on Bernanke and I always try to not look at my portfolio before answering. The questions come in all forms -- from does he know what he's doing to more bluntly, is he stupid or what? I always answer these questions the same way: He is one of the smartest minds in the entire world. And this is not an exaggeration.
Bernanke has done a great job, but it appears he has been unable to avoid severe criticism since the start of the second quarter. I think investors should better consider how far our economy has come.
Just a couple of years ago the economy was on the brink of collapse. It was Bernanke's economic leadership and policies that steered the U.S. economy to better times. The fact that the market is here thriving today is nothing short of remarkable.
However, what I am noticing more and more is that investors often confuse what his responsibilities are with what they think his interests should be -- in particular, we sometimes think that he should care about the stock market in the same way he does with the economy. Not only is that an impossible expectation, but it's grossly unfair, if not irresponsible.
The schizophrenic state of the market is not entirely his fault. What has become very apparent throughout the course of the year is the U.S. market still lacks autonomy. Each step forward is followed by another step back -- this week was no different.
The good news for Wall Street is corporate earnings continue to rise. And companies that have showed some signs of struggle, such as Alcoa(AA) , are now showing modest signs of improvement. Disappointingly, such progress appears to not matter.