Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will likely acknowledge the US central bank is actively considering another round of monetary easing in his keynote Jackson Hole speech today.
But the Fed chief could disappoint fidgety financial markets if he stops short of signalling another bond-buying program is imminent, which many analysts say is a strong possibility.
"We have had low expectations for significant news," said Vincent Reinhart, an economist at Morgan Stanley and a former top staffer at the Fed.
For one thing, minutes of the Fed's last meeting were already very strongly worded in the direction of further stimulus.
Indeed, that report suggested a high bar for the Fed not to embark on a fresh stimulus push, with many policymakers wanting to see "a substantial and sustainable strengthening" of the economic recovery to stay on hold.
Speaking on the sidelines ahead of the Fed's annual monetary policy symposium, Julia Coronado, economist at BNP Paribas, said data hinting at a bit of strengthening in the economy can hardly be said to meet that standard. She expects a solid easing signal from Bernanke's speech.
It would be difficult for Bernanke to be any firmer than the minutes without actively pre-empting the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee, a step the chairman may be loath to take.
"We do not think Bernanke is inclined to front-run the committee less than two weeks ahead of the next meeting," said Michael Feroli, an economist at JP Morgan.
Any lack of concrete detail on the likely course of action could disappoint global stock markets, which have risen in recent weeks on expectations of more central bank intervention from both the Fed and the European Central Bank.
City A.M. Reporter