"Rates up" — under 140 characters

Twitter, gaining broader popularity in 2010, inspired Federal Reserve's top policymakers to try to deliver extra brief remarks during policy debates.

As reported by Wall Street Journal, Twittering was during 2010 invoked in formal meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee. The transcripts quoted top Fed economist David Stockton:

Given the shortness of time we that have available this morning, I considered moving FOMC proceedings to a whole new level of efficiency by Twittering my briefing [laughter], with a Tweet something along the lines of “Recovery remains on track, though headwinds continue to be evident.”

Twitter made Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker to make a try at innovation in Fed communications:

MR. LACKER. … I’ve sort of expressed my preference about the proposed statements. I do like the idea of press conferences—I think you’d be great at it, Mr. Chairman. I do not think we’re ready at this time for other social media, like Twitter or Facebook, for communicating our monetary policy, but maybe down the road we’d want to consider it. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN BERNANKE. “Rates up”—under 140 characters. [Laughter]

Transcripts, released by the world's most transparent central banks with a delay of six or more years, provide a valuable insight into the flavour of serious policy debates. Based on my own experience from the Czech National Bank, officials from time to time do find a few opportunities to cut the tension at these otherwise strictly formal meetings.

On Wall Street Journal's count the 2010 Fed transcripts noted 222 moments of laughter across 10 meetings and conference calls — down from 303 in 2009. (They’re marked by a “[Laughter]” tag in the transcripts.)

Another interesting tidbit from the 2010 transcripts is a suggestion by Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota how to communicate where the Fed’s power really ends:

MR. KOCHERLAKOTA. … Firms have jobs but can’t find appropriate workers. The workers want to work but can’t find appropriate jobs. This mismatch may not be amenable to monetary policy actions. The Fed can do many things, but it cannot readily transform a construction worker into a nurse.