For Fed's Dudley, iPad comment falls flat in Queens

NEW YORK Fri Mar 11, 2011 10:41am EST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank doesn't normally face a raucous crowd.

But in Queens, New York, on Friday, William Dudley was bombarded with questions about food inflation, and his attempt to put rising commodity prices into a broader economic context only made things worse.

"When was the last time, sir, that you went grocery shopping?" one audience member asked.

Dudley tried to explain how the Fed sees things: Yes, food prices may be rising, but at the same time, other prices are declining. The Fed looks at core inflation, which strips out volatile food and energy costs, to get a better sense of where inflation may actually be heading.

So, Dudley sought an everyday example of a price that is falling.

"Today you can buy an iPad 2 that costs the same as an iPad 1 that is twice as powerful," he said referring to Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) latest handheld tablet computer hitting stories on Friday.

"You have to look at the prices of all things," he said.

This prompted guffaws and widespread murmuring from the audience, with one audience member calling the comment "tone deaf."

"I can't eat an iPad," another quipped.

(Reporting by Kristina Cooke; Editing by Jan Paschal)

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