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TheStreet Open House

Careful Bernanke Assures Fed Is Watching Inflation

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke walked a careful line between sticking to his script and delivering on the transparency that his first press conference had promised on Wednesday.

The chairman appeared stiff and his voice quavered at times as he took questions from a room of journalists. He also frequently slipped back into the same "Fedspeak" that the briefing sought to unravel as reporters drilled him about rising oil prices, high unemployment levels and the meaning of the "extended period" phrase.

Bernanke clearly erred on the conservative side, which is unsurprising considering concerns that an unscripted question-and-answer session could create market volatility.

However, he appeared more like the composed congressional-hearing Bernanke that television audiences have grown accustomed to as the conference continued.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

The briefing was a success in the fact that markets remained stable throughout the conference and even rose to a stronger close in the final hours of trading.

Whether it was successful on the transparency front is another matter.

Bernanke clearly tried to assure that economic conditions are getting better and that both inflation and unemployment will stabilize in time, but he did so with the same formal language that seemed ripped from the FOMC statement that was released earlier in the afternoon.

He said the factors weighing on gross domestic product "appear to be transitory" -- a word he repeated throughout the conference. He tiptoed around clarifying the Fed's "extended period" language by giving the usual response about the importance of resource slack and inflation expectations.

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