Wednesday, 11 October, 2017
Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen and Fed governor Jerome Powell ran not far behind as the second and third mostly likely picks to run the central bank after Ms. Yellen’s current term ends in early February.
Business and academic economists surveyed saw a 28% probability that Mr. Trump would choose Mr. Warsh, a 22% probability of Ms. Yellen winning a second term and a 21% probability of Mr. Powell getting the nod.
The results come after The Wall Street Journal reported in late September that Mr. Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had separately interviewed Mr. Warsh and Mr. Powell for the top Fed job, and after the president said he would make a decision within three weeks.
Mr. Warsh, a former Morgan Stanley executive who served on the Fed’s board of governors from 2006 to 2011, has expressed skepticism of the central bank’s policy and communications, criticized its asset-purchase programs and accused officials of “trying to fine-tune the economy.”
He was a member of Mr. Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, a group of business leaders that disbanded in August in protest over what they said was Mr. Trump’s failure to sufficiently condemn racism.
“Warsh has muscle memory of the crisis, is well-known by Republicans on the Hill and knows the president,” Diane Swonk of DS Economics said in the survey, in which she assigned Mr. Warsh a 55% probability of becoming the next Fed chairman.
Mr. Powell, who joined the Fed’s board of governors in 2012, has emerged as a reliable ally of Ms. Yellen’s on monetary policy, while also calling for easing some of the bank rules put in place following the financial crisis. This puts him largely in sync with Mr. Trump’s positions favoring low interest rates and financial deregulation.
Mr. Powell was a partner at the Carlyle Group, a private-equity firm, from 1997 to 2005 and a lawyer and investment banker in New York. He served as an undersecretary and assistant secretary for domestic finance at the U.S. Treasury from 1990 to 1993.
“I expect it will either be Powell as a continuity pick or Warsh as a disruptor,” Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities, said in the WSJ survey. He assigned a 40% probability to Mr. Warsh and a 35% probability to Mr. Powell.
The survey gave the respondents a list of six names and asked them to assign to each a probability he or she would be nominated as Fed leader, and there was an option of “someone not on this list.” The economists were asked to submit estimates that would add up to 100%.
Ranking below the top three were Mr. Trump’s top economic adviser and former Wall Street executive Gary Cohn, Stanford University economist John Taylor, former BB&T Bank Chief Executive John Allison or another name not on the list.
Economists assigned Mr. Cohn an 11% probability, Mr. Taylor an 8% probability and Mr. Allison a 5% probability. They put the chance of Mr. Trump picking someone not on the list at 6%. Rounding in the survey meant the total of the responses added up to 101%, rather than 100%.
Mr. Trump told The Wall Street Journal in an interview in July that he was considering nominating Mr. Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, to become Fed chairman. But Mr. Cohn’s public criticism of Mr. Trump’s response to the racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Va., made it unlikely the president would nominate him to the position, people familiar with the president’s thinking told the Journal in September.
Market expectations of Mr. Trump’s choice differ. Early Wednesday, Mr. Powell was the market front-runner with a 46% probability, according to PredictIt, a New Zealand-based online prediction market. Mr. Warsh had a 25% probability, Ms. Yellen had 14% and Mr. Cohn had 8%.
Nearly three in four economists polled in last month’s survey said Ms. Yellen should be nominated for a second term as Fed chairwoman. Around two-thirds of the same economists viewed Mr. Cohn as qualified to be chairman.
Ms. Yellen hasn’t commented on her intentions beyond saying she intends to serve out her current term as chairwoman, which ends Feb. 3, 2018. She said at a Sept. 20 press conference that she hadn’t met with Mr. Trump since earlier in the year. The two met for about 15 minutes in the Oval Office in February. Her term as a governor extends until 2024, so she could stay on at the Fed regardless of Mr. Trump’s pick for Fed chief.
The Journal surveyed 59 economists Oct. 6-10 in this month’s poll, although not every economist answered every question.
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