In Charlotte, Bernanke says rescues were 'essential'

Speaking at a conference in Charlotte today, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank's aggressive actions to fight the financial crisis have more than doubled the Fed's balance sheet but were "essential."

"Relieving the disruptions in credit markets and restoring the flow of credit to households and businesses are essential if we are to see, as I expect, the gradual resumption of sustainable economic growth," Bernanke said.

Since the financial crisis erupted in 2007, the Fed's balance sheet – its assets and liabilities – has increased to $2 trillion from $870 billion. This includes loans provided to financial institutions, securities and other holdings related to rescue programs.

Bernanke spoke at Charlotte’s Marriott City Center Hotel at a conference on credit markets sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. Richmond Fed President Jeff Lacker introduced Bernanke as a native son of the Fed’s 5th District, which includes the Carolinas. Bernanke grew up in Dillon, S.C., and visited his maternal grandparents in Charlotte as a child. His parents live here now.

Bernanke will visit family while in town, but the Fed didn’t provide details of his trip.

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