Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan's speeches at the symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming has attracted a number of comments in the mainstream media and the blogosphere, so I won't add to them except to highlight his remarks on the role of asset prices in the economy and in relation to monetary policy-making.
In his speech on 26 August, "Reflections on central banking", he said:
... The determination of global economic activity in recent years has been influenced importantly by capital gains on various types of assets, and the liabilities that finance them. Our forecasts and hence policy are becoming increasingly driven by asset price changes... [T]he growing stability of the world economy over the past decade may have encouraged investors to accept increasingly lower levels of compensation for risk... The lowered risk premiums--the apparent consequence of a long period of economic stability--coupled with greater productivity growth have propelled asset prices higher...
... To some extent, those higher values may be reflecting the increased flexibility and resilience of our economy. But what they perceive as newly abundant liquidity can readily disappear. Any onset of increased investor caution elevates risk premiums and, as a consequence, lowers asset values and promotes the liquidation of the debt that supported higher asset prices. This is the reason that history has not dealt kindly with the aftermath of protracted periods of low risk premiums.
And in his closing remarks on 27 August, he said:
Nearer term, the housing boom will inevitably simmer down. As part of that process, house turnover will decline from currently historic levels, while home price increases will slow and prices could even decrease. As a consequence, home equity extraction will ease and with it some of the strength in personal consumption expenditures. The estimates of how much differ widely...
Debates on the relative merits of asset price targeting also will continue and possibly intensify in the years ahead. The configuration of asset prices is already an integral part of our evaluation of the large array of forces that influence financial stability and economic growth. But given our current state of knowledge, I find it difficult to envision central banks successfully targeting asset prices any time soon. However, I certainly do not rule out that future work could improve our understanding of asset price behavior, and with it, the conduct of monetary policy.