December 16th, 2009
11:46 AM ET

Financial Dispatch: The $6.4 Trillion Man

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/17/art.bernanke.gi.jpg caption="Time Magazine named Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke the 2009 'Person of the Year' Wednesday. "]

Jennifer Rizzo
Assignment Editor, CNN New York

The votes are in. One day before a Senate Banking Committee votes on a whether Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will be given another term, Time Magazine named the chief the 2009 “Person of the Year” Wednesday. The magazine dubbed the economist “the most powerful nerd on the planet” and gave him credit for not making a weak economy much worse. CNNMoney.com’s “Bailout Tracker” calculates that the Federal Reserve’s rescue efforts total $6.4 trillion – and that doesn’t include the $700 billion TARP program.

The news of Bernanke’s person of the year status came ahead of the Fed’s interest rate announcement expected at 2pm today. The current near zero interest rate has been in place for a year and experts don’t anticipate it changing for the foreseeable future despite signs that the economy is slowly on the mend.

The rate of construction on new homes soared almost 9% in November. The annual rate of 574,000 new homes however is still down a sharp 12.4% from last year.

Consumer prices were up 1.8% in November from the previous year, the first increase over a 12 month period since February, and up less than half a percent from October. The report was in line with economist expectations. Without food and energy, prices were unchanged from October.

Holiday shoppers are waiting till the last minute to buy their gifts this season, according to a report released by the National Retail Federation. Shoppers were less than halfway through their gift lists 2 weeks before Christmas, the lowest level in the last 5 years, and only 8% completed their shopping.

The economy is on the agenda in Washington today. According to the White House, Vice President Biden will host a Middle Class Task Force meeting on the Administration’s commitment to the future of manufacturing in the country. Participants in the discussion include Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and Director of the National Economic Council Lawrence Summers.

Also in the Capitol, The House plans to vote today on $167 billion in job measures, including a 2 month extension on the deadline to file for unemployment and COBRA health coverage. If the current deadline of Dec. 31st is not extended 1 million unemployed Americans will lose their benefits in January. Separately, House lawmakers plan to vote on a $154 billion job creation package that will pump money into infrastructure spending like highway and mass transit projects and send money to states to prevent layoffs of teachers, police officers, and firefighters, according to sources within the House Democratic leadership.

And speaking of job creation the grand opening of the Las Vegas CityCenter is today. The massive $8.5 billion development is being touted as a “city within a city” and many hope the development, which will employ 12,000 people, will give Vegas the economic jolt it needs.

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Filed under: Economy • Finance
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