The Fed speaks: Five times Federal Reserve chairmen made waves with words

The Federal Reserve, the institution tasked with guarding the economy against inflation and financial instability, has long made headlines for its words as well as its actions. An utterance from the chairman can help reassure financial markets or raise concerns about the economy.

Now the central bank is moving to explain itself more openly in its first-ever formalized press conferences, so the opportunity for Fed officials to make market-moving pronouncements may increase. Here's a look at some moments when a Fed chairman has made waves with his words.

Joshua Roberts/REUTERS/file
Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke testifies to the House Financial Services Committee on Captiol Hill in Washington, July 20, 2006.

1. Volcker pledges to be tough

Andy Nelson/The Christian Science Monitor/file
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, seen here in 2002, helped ease 'stagflation' in the early 1980s.

In 1981, the American economy was still mired in the trouble known as stagflation – a bitter blend of high inflation and disappointing growth. Fed chief Paul Volcker had announced policies in October 1979 to corral the rampant price pressures via a tight monetary policy. But he hadn't won the battle. Investors had seen other Fed leaders falter on this front, and Mr. Volcker himself had seemed inconsistent.

On Aug. 30, 1981, Mr. Volcker went on a Sunday ABC News show and vowed to persist. ''We have to keep restraining the growth of money and credit,'' Volcker said, according to a New York Times story about his comments. ''Yes, we intend to stick with it,'' he added.

Investors didn't immediately buy in, and Volcker himself said financial markets would have to be persuaded by actions, not just words. Ultimately, monetary policy remained tight even as the nation experienced a deep recession from mid-1981 to the end of 1982, and an era of declining inflation rates was under way.

1 of 5
of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.