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Bernanke says Fed legitimacy depends on public communication

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke addresses the National Economists Club annual dinner at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, November 19, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Jonathan Spicer

(Reuters) - The Federal Reserve must clearly explain its decisions to Americans and convince them that the policies are in their interest, Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Monday without specifically discussing monetary policy or the U.S. economy.

Bernanke, in prepared remarks to an event celebrating the Fed's centennial, said the U.S. central bank's legitimacy and independence relies on two-way communication with the public.

The Fed's policy-making Federal Open Market Committee holds a meeting Tuesday and Wednesday at which officials could decide to trim their $85 billion in monthly asset purchases, if they believe the economy is strong enough to sustain less stimulus.

Bernanke, who is set to step down as chairman on January 31, said the Fed's work on achieving a full U.S. recovery from the 2007-2009 recession is "still ongoing."

But the central bank's ability to "make and implement such decisions ultimately depends on the public's understanding and acceptance of our actions," he added at the event attended by former Fed chairmen Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan.

"For this reason, we must continue to emphasize two other essential values - transparency and accountability," Bernanke added.

"Ultimately, the legitimacy of our policies rests on the understanding and support of the broader American public, whose interests we are working to serve."

The Fed was created 100 years ago next week.

(Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)