White House official says Yellen front-runner for Fed chief

Wed Sep 18, 2013 7:24pm EDT
 
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By Mark Felsenthal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A White House official said on Wednesday that Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen was front-runner for the top job at the U.S. central bank when Ben Bernanke steps down, a shift in strategy after former economic adviser Lawrence Summers withdrew from consideration.

With the end of Bernanke's term looming in January and a compressed congressional calendar through the end of the year, President Barack Obama is expected to move forward quickly with a nomination. White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday the announcement could come as soon as next week.

Although Yellen was initially handicapped as the favorite to replace Bernanke, whose second term expires on January 31, a series of news reports in recent months had made clear that Obama preferred Summers.

But Summers, a highly regarded but controversial figure, stirred a hornets' nest of opposition and on Sunday withdrew from consideration after widespread criticism of his candidacy from liberal Democrats.

Some Washington policy veterans said his decision opened the door to long-shot candidates, such as former Fed vice chairs Roger Ferguson and Donald Kohn. But the White House appears to be trying to quash that speculation.

LOOK FOR DECISION 'REASONABLY SOON'

Bernanke has never said he plans to step down although it had long been rumored that he wanted to leave after a grueling tenure battling the financial crisis and deep 2007-2009 recession.

In a television interview in June, President Barack Obama said the former Princeton professor had "stayed a lot longer than he wanted or he was supposed to," making it clear that Bernanke's second term would be his last.   Continued...

 
Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen addresses the 29th National Association for Business Economics Policy Conference in Washington March 4, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron