It’s the mantra among regulators and echoed by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke on Friday: The recession — pushed along by rising unemployment levels, plunging home values and growing delinquencies — would be much worse had governmental bodies not stepped up to intervene. As the financial markets recover, new system-wide oversight of liquidity among financial institutions must be enacted to ensure recovery remains on track and to avoid future systemic events, Bernanke told a group at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City‘s annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyo. “Unlike in the 1930s, when policy was largely passive and political divisions made international economic and financial cooperation difficult, during the past year monetary, fiscal, and financial policies around the world have been aggressive and complementary,” Bernanke said. “Without these speedy and forceful actions, last October’s panic would likely have continued to intensify, more major financial firms would have failed, and the entire global financial system would have been at serious risk.” In his speech, Bernanke retraced the key events of the past year. He recounted as signs that trouble was looming continued to mount during the summer of 2008, market participants did not listen. “There was little to suggest that market participants saw the financial situation as about to take a sharp turn for the worse,” he said. “As of this time last year, market participants evidently believed it improbable that significant additional monetary policy stimulus would be needed in the United States.” Noting that the recession made a global impact, Bernanke praised the efforts of foreign governments to help the financial industry. “This strong and unprecedented international policy response proved broadly effective,” Bernanke said. “Critically, it averted the imminent collapse of the global financial system…however, although the intensity of the crisis moderated and the risk of systemic collapse declined in the wake of the policy response, financial conditions remained highly stressed.” Moving forward, Bernanke said both the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and the US bank regulatory agencies will push for stronger liquidity risk management at financial institutions, including enhancing guidelines that take into account the large-scale risk that inadequate liquidity planning has on the entire financial system. Write to Austin Kilgore.
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