Hilsenrath: White House Preparing Bernanke's Replacement

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It's been a long time since Hilsenrath actually reported news instead of serve as a leak dissemination service for the New York Fed. Today was one of those time with news from the WSJ that the Obama administration, and specifically Jack Lew, has begun assembling a short list of candidates for the Federal Reserve chairmanship, in the expectation that Ben Bernanke won't seek reappointment when his second term ends in January. According to Hilsenrath, since the decision on whether the Chairsatan stays or goes is all his, Bernanke may decide to stay for a few more years of QEasing, however he won't: "many of Mr. Bernanke's friends and associates believe he wants to step down when his term expires, after nearly eight years overseeing the central bank's response to the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression."

From the WSJ:

Obama administration officials have spoken to the Senate about putting forward a nominee so that legislative staff can begin the vetting process and prepare for confirmation hearings, according to a senior Senate aide. "They've indicated that they are working to get us a nominee in time for us to do our due diligence," the Senate aide said.

 

People familiar with the process wouldn't divulge any names on the short list, but said there was no front-runner. The White House is still in an early stage of the process and might not announce its selection until the early fall, they said.

 

White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said in a statement Thursday, "We decline to comment on speculation on any personnel matters until the president has made his decisions and is ready to announce them. The president believes that Chairman Bernanke is a vital and excellent partner in promoting our economic recovery, and he continues to serve admirably and with distinction during this important time for our country."

 

The president, while praising Mr. Bernanke in a television interview earlier this month with Charlie Rose, said Mr. Bernanke has "already stayed a lot longer than he wanted or he was supposed to." The two met at the White House in February and Mr. Bernanke said in March they had spoken "a bit" about his future. He declined at a press conference last week to say any more about his future.

 

Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), a member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which will hold confirmation hearings on any nominee for Fed chairman, said in an interview: "I would be very surprised if he stayed, and I do not believe that he will."

Who are Bernanke's replacements according to Hilsenleak? No new names here: Yellen and Larry "Mr Burns" Summers as frontrunners, and then warming the bench are Blinder, Ferguson, Romer, Geithner, and Kohn now that Fischer is going back to the BOI.

Janet Yellen, the Fed's vice chairwoman, is widely seen in financial markets as the leading contender for the job. Ms. Yellen is a Democrat who served as the chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and has held a variety of posts at the Fed, including governor, San Francisco Fed president, and Mr. Bernanke's second-in-command since October 2010.

 

Ms. Yellen has been an outspoken advocate of the Fed's easy-money policies. Her involvement in formulating those complicated policies could give her an advantage in the eyes of the White House, since she would have insight into how they work and the challenges of changing them. But she also has drawbacks that could work against her—including a lack of market experience at a time when markets are on edge, in addition to having little exposure to top White House officials.

 

Lawrence Summers, the former head of Mr. Obama's National Economic Council, could be another top contender. Mr. Summers, who served as Treasury Secretary under Mr. Clinton, is close to many of Mr. Obama's top economic advisers and is widely viewed in the administration as a top economist. But he faces obstacles, too, including questions about how well he would fit into the Fed's collegial and consensus-oriented culture: Mr. Summers has a reputation as a blunt-spoken and sometimes tempestuous leader.

 

Mr. Obama has a deep bench of other respected economists among Democrats to choose from, including two former Fed vice chairmen, Princeton University professor Alan Blinder and Roger Ferguson, who advised Mr. Obama's first campaign for president in 2008, and Christina Romer, the former head of Mr. Obama's Council of Economic Advisers. Timothy Geithner, Mr. Obama's former Treasury Secretary, is sometimes mentioned in markets as a potential successor to Mr. Bernanke, though Mr. Geithner has said he doesn't want the job.

 

Former central bankers, including Donald Kohn and Stanley Fischer, are sometimes mentioned by outside observers as potential candidates. And it is possible a surprise candidate could emerge.

 

History doesn't provide great insight into how soon Mr. Obama will act. Past nominations have been made anywhere between June and October. He announced Mr. Bernanke in August 2009. Mr. Bernanke was originally nominated to run the Fed by President George W. Bush in October of 2005. Mr. Bernanke's predecessors—Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker—were nominated in June and July, respectively, to their first terms.

How will the market deal with the volatility and insecurity associated with the great rotation of the world's most powerful person? It's unclear, but it is certain that it will be spun as bullish to quite bullish by Comcast's financial comedy and home advertising station.