Colin Barr

Following the money in banking, economics, and Washington

S&P's Bernanke moment?

March 31, 2011: 2:29 PM ET

Don't look now, but the rating agency just issued a report with this headline:

Municipal Risk For Rated U.S. Banks Appears To Be Contained

You might have thought no one in the financial markets would ever use that word with a straight face after Fed chief Ben Bernanke's March 2007 testimony before Congress on the subprime crisis. As you may recall, he said [emphasis is mine]:

Contain your subprime enthusiasm

Although the turmoil in the subprime mortgage market has created severe financial problems for many individuals and families, the implications of these developments for the housing market as a whole are less clear. The ongoing tightening of lending standards, although an appropriate market response, will reduce somewhat the effective demand for housing, and foreclosed properties will add to the inventories of unsold homes. At this juncture, however, the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime market seems likely to be contained.

Or not, as the case may be. We shall see how S&P, which is if anything a less sympathetic character than Bernanke, fares this time around. Sticks to beat the rating agencies with are not exactly in short supply nowadays, but hey, another one is always handy.

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About This Author
Colin Barr
Colin Barr
Senior Writer, Fortune

Colin Barr has covered finance for since November 2007. Previously he was a writer and editor for, winning a 2006 Society of American Business Editors and Writers award for "The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street," and for Dow Jones Newswires. He is a 1991 graduate of Penn State and lives in Port Washington, N.Y., with his wife Meena Bose and their two kids.

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