This Week Aug. 17-21

Taking Stock Of a Year of Economic Crisis

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner, then president of the New York Fed, at last year's economic symposium.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner, then president of the New York Fed, at last year's economic symposium. (By Andrew Harrer -- Bloomberg News)
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Monday, August 17, 2009

This week, the news about the economy moves out west. With no major data on tap, the focus will be on Jackson Hole, Wyo., where the biggest event of the year for Federal Reserve insiders begins Thursday night.

The annual symposium is sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and includes every top Fed official and dozens of leading economists from universities, foreign central banks and private firms. (There are also a handful of reporters present, to blast word of the proceedings to the broader world.)

The topic this year is "Financial Stability and Macroeconomic Policy," appropriate for a conference that comes two years after the outbreak of a financial crisis and almost one year after that crisis deepened.

The event that will likely receive the most attention is a speech by Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke on Friday morning. Bernanke's talk is titled "Lessons from a Year of Crisis," and should include his recounting of the events of the last year and lessons from the experience for policy in the future. In contrast to his recent, highly visible appearances, this speech is not scheduled to be televised (a text will be published on the Fed's Web site, however).

The rest of the symposium includes presentations and discussion of several academic papers about macroeconomics that, if the past is a guide, should spark a vigorous conversation among specialists, but are less likely to move markets or dominate headlines.

Among the data coming out this week, Tuesday's release of wholesale price data is expected to offer further evidence that there is little immediate threat of inflation. Analysts expect the producer price index to be up 0.1 percent in July.

A Tuesday release on July housing starts and one on existing home sales on Friday, meanwhile, are expected to offer further evidence of stabilization in residential real estate. Both are expected to rise over June levels.

-- Neil Irwin

NEIL'S MUST-READS: Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff argues at Project Syndicate that the world economy has only begun rebalancing, and economists at the Kansas City Fed offer a less than sunny view of what will happen to unemployment following the recession.

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