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Reality Check


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REALITY CHECK

ALAN GREENSPAN SAYS Federal Reserve Board policy decisions should remain secret until the Fed chooses to unveil them six weeks later. Responding to congressional critics who want to open up the process, the Fed boss says a tight-lips policy helps the central bank avoid creating turbulence in the credit markets. Plus, he says, airing details of what goes on in Fed meetings would squelch free and frank discussion. Now, only sketchy summaries are released.

IN REALITY, the Fed periodically leaks word of policy changes, so it has no call to act so high-and-mighty. As a matter of fact, a recent study by two economists at the St. Louis Fed found that early release seldom has a big effect on the markets, because Wall Street is rarely surprised by Fed decisions. Germany's Bundesbank frequently announces decisions at a press conference held the day it votes. As far as doings inside the Fed, the only things that should be kept under wraps are contingency plans for possible future rate cuts or hikes. Otherwise, why not release full accounts of a public body's meetings within a week? EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT AND JULIE TILSNER


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