CERAWEEK-Bernanke says energy a 'bright spot,' upbeat on jobs data

Fri Mar 7, 2014 2:35pm EST

By Ernest Scheyder and Terry Wade

HOUSTON, March 7 (Reuters) - The boom in onshore natural gas production in the United States has brought down power prices and may be contributing to a "reshoring" of manufacturing jobs from overseas, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Friday.

The U.S. economy continues to recover, thanks in part to rising energy production, but more needs to be done to boost growth, Bernanke said in one of his first public speeches since handing over the reins at the Fed in January to Janet Yellen.

Natural gas production has been a "terrific development. I don't want to overstate it but it's one of the bright spots in the economy," he said at Houston's IHS CERAWeek conference, the world's most influential meeting of energy executives.

"The jobs number we got this morning was consistent with a recovering economy," added Bernanke, now a distinguished fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution think-tank.

Bernanke is following the well-trodden path of top public servants who meet demand for their expert insights by giving keynote speeches. In the case of the former Fed chief, these could potentially move markets.

Signs of less wrangling in Congress over the debt limit and the budget should alleviate worries among investors, Bernanke said, though more needs to be done on "too big to fail" rules to limit the risks financial institutions can take.

He said he was relatively optimistic about the global economy.