Janet Yellen, vice chair of the Federal Reserve, was nominated by President Obama on Wednesday as the next chair of the central bank to replace current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke when his term expires in January 2014.
With the U.S. government shutdown well into day 9 and a looming debt ceiling quickly approaching on Oct. 17, was the announcement ill timed?
“Odd? It was bizarre,” said Alan Valdes, vice president of trading at DME Securities. “I mean yesterday he [President Obama] had this big news conference about meeting with the Republicans, the usual political rhetoric going on, and we’re in the middle of a shutdown, we have a debt ceiling eight days away now, and it comes up last night [Tuesday] around 7 o’clock that he’s going to nominate Janet Yellen. First of all, it’s going to get lost in all the swirl that’s going on out there. The timing was horrible. It’s like a no confidence vote for Yellen. Just shove it in under the door real quickly when no one’s talking about it.”
After the White House said on Tuesday night the president would announce Yellen as the nominee, U.S. stocks edged higher at the open on Wednesday, only to fall flat in midday trading. Following Obama’s official nomination of Yellen at 3 p.m., Wall Street eked out gains at the close.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 26.45 points, or 0.18 percent, to close at 14,802.98. The S&P 500 Index was up 0.95 point, or 0.06 percent, to end at 1,656.40. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 17.06 points, or 0.46 percent, to finish at 3,677.78.
After months of speculation regarding when the Federal Reserve would announce tapering its $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) surprised markets by not scaling back the central bank’s quantitative easing program after its Sept. 17-18 meeting.
Market professionals view Yellen as being more dovish on monetary policy, and possibly taking a slower approach toward reducing the Fed's QE program.
“Well, if you’re a fan of tapering, she’s the chair person you want. I mean, she’ll probably taper for the next 30 years,” Valdes said. “Tapering is like sugar. You give a kid sugar, you get em’ going, but eventually it rots their teeth. And so they [Traders] want this cut back. So even if it’s 5 billion, just show us that the economy’s getting better. Show us that we can manage our money better, and start cutting back slowly.”
Yet Valdes thinks Yellen, who was sworn in as vice chair of the Federal Reserve in 2010, will not be quick to taper, based on her record. The dovish skepticism of her record is due to Yellen’s support of the central bank’s three unconventional quantitative easing programs that began after the 2008 financial crisis.
“But Janet Yellen, if anything, will go the other way. That’s how her record goes, so we’ll have to see,” added Valdes.
However, Yellen’s record also proves she can be hawkish. When Yellen debated then Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan while she was a Fed governor in 1996, she expressed the view that leaving rates too low for too long could harm the U.S. economy. Although her view on inflation was not widely accepted by the Federal Reserve then, it is now, as the Fed maintains its 2 percent inflation target.
If the Senate approves Yellen, she would be sworn in next February as the 15th leader of the Federal Reserve and the first woman ever to head the central bank.