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Milton Ezrati of Lord AbbettThe broad scope and open-ended nature of the Federal Reserve’s third round of quantitative easing (QE3) raises questions about exactly what Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has in mind. Some insight, remarkably, emerges from a speech he gave in November 2002, when he was simply a Fed board member, to the National Economists Club in Washington. Taking his cue from fears at the time about a Japanese-style deflation, Bernanke laid out a path for monetary stimulus in an extreme situation, outlining non-traditional policy tools that have since become common. The speech also took comfort in the relative strengths of the U.S. economy compared with Japan’s. Perhaps the dissipation of those advantages contributed to Bernanke’s decision to pursue QE3 now.

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