Wall Street had looked to the Federal Reserve's new plain-speaking chairman to cut through the Greenspeak of his predecessor. But investors think they're getting contradictory signals from Ben Bernanke, too, with his latest sending stocks in a nosedive.

Bernanke, who took over the Fed helm on Feb. 1 after longtime chairman Alan Greenspan retired, has gotten off to a bumpy start in communicating the central bank's interest-rate intentions to Wall Street.

The power of the Fed chief comes not only from what he does to interest rates but also what he says. A single utterance can affect the financial fortunes of millions of investors.

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