Fed to Release Statment, Projections on March 20 at 2 PM

The Federal Reserve starting next week will cut to 30 minutes the gap between the release of the Federal Open Market Committee policy statements and the start of Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s press conferences.

The central bank will release the FOMC statement and the Summary of Economic Projections at 2 p.m. Washington time, followed by Bernanke’s briefing to reporters at about 2:30 p.m., the Fed said today in a statement. Prior FOMC statements were released at about 12:30 p.m. on press conference days, with Bernanke starting his briefing at 2:15 p.m.

The change will “better facilitate the release of information in conjunction with the chairman’s quarterly news conferences,” the Fed said in a statement today in Washington.

Fed officials, who are scheduled to gather March 19-20 in Washington, are modifying their communications policy almost two years after Bernanke began giving press conferences in April 2011. The Fed chairman has increased transparency in how the central bank sets monetary policy as he deployed complex and unorthodox tools to spur economic growth.

“It makes sense to have a shorter period between the time a policy change is announced and Chairman Bernanke’s explanation,” said Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP LLC in Jersey City, New Jersey. It’s “shortening the period of uncertainty between the statement and press conference.”

Town Hall

Bernanke during the past four years has sought out more opportunities to directly speak to the public. He sat for interviews with CBS Corp. (CBS)’s “60 Minutes” program in 2009 and 2010, and led a town-hall-style discussion on PBS television.

Bernanke toured a Philadelphia shipyard and a Tasty Baking Co. cupcake factory in 2010 and traveled to El Paso, Texas, in 2011 to speak to soldiers at Fort Bliss.

The Fed has also been disclosing more information. The FOMC’s 19 participants at their January 2012 meeting began releasing their projections for the path of the Fed’s target interest rate. The committee in December agreed to link its zero-rate policy to thresholds for unemployment and inflation so investors and households know what conditions will prompt the Fed to consider raising its record-low interest rate.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Kearns in Washington at jkearns3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net

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