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Karim writes:

Most of testimony explaining actions of recent weeks. Direct comments on economy below. Focus on enabling financial conditions to improve ‘for a protracted period’ means that in Bernanke’s mind that hikes are off the table for a ‘protracted period’ and cuts may be on the table if inflation cooperates.

Notably, stresses in financial markets have been high and have recently intensified significantly. If financial conditions fail to improve for a protracted period, the implications for the broader economy could be quite adverse.

While perhaps manageable in itself, Lehman’s default was combined with the unexpectedly rapid collapse of AIG, which together contributed to the development last week of extraordinarily turbulent conditions in global financial markets. These conditions caused equity prices to fall sharply, the cost of short-term credit–where available–to spike upward, and liquidity to dry up in many markets. Losses at a large money market mutual fund sparked extensive withdrawals from a number of such funds. A marked increase in the demand for safe assets–a flight to quality–sent the yield on Treasury bills down to a few hundredths of a percent. By further reducing asset values and potentially restricting the flow of credit to households and businesses, these developments pose a direct threat to economic growth.