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The fine print on Bernanke’s statement about the recession ending this year

The vexing thing about news is that sometimes you have to read more than the headline to understand the story. Earlier this week, for instance, markets staged a rally on reports that Fed chairman Ben Bernanke had said–well, the Wall Street Journal’s news alert was headlined “Bernanke says recession should end this year.” AP wrapped up the day’s events with a story called “Stocks up as Bernanke says recession to end in ’09.”

But that’s not what he said. Andrew Leonard at Salon unearthed the prepared text of Bernanke’s comments:

“If actions taken by the Administration, the Congress, and the Federal Reserve are successful in restoring some measure of financial stability — and only if that is the case, in my view — there is a reasonable prospect that the current recession will end in 2009 and that 2010 will be a year of recovery.” [emphasis added]

Leonard’s conclusion: “[L]et’s retitle that WSJ News Alert: ‘Bernanke Warns That Without Aggressive FDR-Style Strong Government Action to Boost the Economy, We’re Doomed.'”

And the AP story should have been titled “Stocks rally on investors’ lousy reading skills.”

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