Bernanke provided plenty of fascinating observations about the current economic cycle, his frustration at the slow pace of economic growth and the great likelihood for the central bank to maintain a "quite large" balance sheet for "a very long time."

"People don't appreciate how tight fiscal policy has been," Bernanke said.  "At this stage in the last recession -- which was a much milder recession -- state, local and federal governments had hired an additional 400,000 from the trough of the recession.  At the same point in this recovery, the change in state, local and federal government workers is minus 600,000, so there's about a million workers difference in how many people are employed at all levels of government."

"So fiscal policy has been tight, contractionary, and there have been a lot of headwinds." Bernanke said.

He added that "we don't fully understand" the slow pace of growth."

"But compared to other advanced industrial countries recovering from financial crises, the U.S recovery has actually been better than most," Bernanke said.

The outgoing Fed chairman said the economic recovery "has not been satisfactory, we still have a labor market where it's not easy to find work,... but given all the things that we faced, it is perhaps, in retrospect, not that shocking that this recovery has been somewhat tepid."

Bank of America

Shares of Bank of America have returned 36% this year, after more than doubling during 2012.  The shares trade for 1.2 times their reported Sept. 30 tangible book value of 13.62.  The shares trade for 11.9 times the consensus 2014 earnings estimate of $1.32, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, and for 9.9 times the consensus 2015 EPS estimate of $1.59.

The following table shows this year's performance this year of Bank of America's stock against the KBW Bank Index and the S&P 500:


BAC Chart
BAC data by YCharts

Interested in more on Bank of America? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock.

-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.



>Contact by Email.

Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.

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