Current Federal Reserve Board of Governors member Jerome Powell is reportedly President Donald Trump’s top pick to replace Janet Yellen as Chair of the Federal Reserve, with a nomination likely to be announced next week.
According to sources speaking to the Wall Street Journal, though, Trump has not formalized his pick – and given Trump’s impulsiveness, anything is possible in the intervening days.
Powell, who was nominated to the Fed board by Barack Obama, has been characterized as a moderate on monetary and economic policy. Prior to his 2014 nomination hearings, one analyst pegged Powell as a ‘centrist’ on inflation, in contrast to a Fed board that was as a whole more tolerant of inflation.
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That slight caution on inflation would make a Powell pick at least nominally out of step with the administration’s focus on economic growth at any cost. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said in September that the Trump administration was “less concerned about inflation at the moment.” That suggests the White House would like the Fed to stop raising interest rates, or to decelerate “quantitative tightening” — the plan to sell trillions of dollars worth of assets it acquired during the financial crisis, and shrink the money supply in the process.
But a Powell pick could align with Trump’s policy goals in other ways. According to the Journal, Powell is more open than Yellen has been to winding down financial rules implemented after the crisis, possibly including capital requirements for banks. Rolling back those rules could be a bonanza for the financial sector.
Appointing Powell, whose experience includes a long stint at the Carlyle Group investment firm, would be a fit for Trump in one other intriguing way. Though he is by all indications a serious and accomplished individual, Powell would be the first Fed chairman since 1981 without a PhD in economics – a possible point in his favor in an administration that tends to view scientific and academic expertise with skepticism.