,Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell takes his seat to testify before a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on “The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 15, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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WASHINGTON: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has told senior White House advisers that she supports reappointing Jerome Powell as Federal Reserve chair, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that greatly increases his chance for a second term.
President Joe Biden hasn’t made a decision yet and is likely to make his choice around Labor Day, the people said. Keeping someone viewed by Wall Street as a trusted policy maker in charge of the world’s most powerful central bank would send a signal of continuity as the economy recovers from the pandemic.
With Powell’s four-year term ending in February, the White House has been casting a wide net for possible candidates, according to people familiar with the deliberations. Advisers have been examining the public speeches and comments of potential contenders to consider, paying special attention to views on the labor market, they said.
But uncertainty over the economic impact of a surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the delta variant may trigger more caution about changing the leadership at the Fed, two of the people said. All of the people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a personnel matter, and the White House and Treasury Department declined to comment.
Yellen’s backing gives Powell an enormous boost: Her almost two decades of experience at the Fed, including four years at its helm, make her counsel to Biden valuable. She also has experience working directly with Powell, who served as a governor at the Fed from 2012 until being elevated to the chair in 2018 when then President Donald Trump passed over Yellen for her own second term.
For Powell and his backers, including Republican lawmakers and many on Wall Street who view him as a steady pair of hands, Yellen’s support comes at an important time. Powell will deliver a much-anticipated speech on Friday at the Kansas City Fed’s annual Jackson Hole symposium, possibly signaling when and how the central bank is likely to begin withdrawing some of its extraordinary support for the economy.
The virus surge in the U.S. is adding uncertainty as the Fed plots its monetary policy path. While interest rates are expected to remain near zero at least well into next year, several Fed officials have indicated eagerness to begin reducing the size of monthly bond purchases this year. Powell has promised to avoid surprising markets with that eventual move.
While many senior Democrats have praised Powell, unified Democratic support isn’t a foregone conclusion. Senators Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren have declined to say whether they would back him for another term, with both criticizing Powell’s handling of financial regulations on issues like bank-stock buybacks.