Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke repeated several of his recent positions on policy and the economy. He stated that the zero fed funds rate is speeding the recovery even though the recovery is still frustratingly slow.
Bernanke did acknowledge that some bankers have complained that low interest rates have hurt interest margins.
"Let me take this opportunity to mention one concern that is of particular relevance to the Federal Reserve: A common complaint on the part of some community bankers is that very low interest rates hurt their profitability by squeezing net interest margins. Since the onset of the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve's monetary policy has been accommodative, as you know. In particular, the federal funds target rate, which stood at 5-1/4 percent in mid-2007, was lowered to a range of 0 to 1/4 percent by the end of 2008 and has since remained at that level. Although these policies do not seem to have led to much change in aggregate measures of net interest margins, at least thus far, we continue to hear that many banks are feeling pressures from this source."