Daily Archives: August 9, 2013

By James Politi in Washington

In his final press conference before heading to Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts, for summer holidays, president Barack Obama was asked about his looming pick to succeed Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chairman.

We’ll try to parse his words, like a Fed statement.

On timing – Mr Obama repeated that he would make the decision in the autumn, which technically begins September 22. But some speculate that a choice could come sooner. Mr Obama might take the time over the holiday to ruminate and, perhaps inspired by the Atlantic ocean breeze, even make up his mind one way or the other.

On names – Mr Obama confirmed that Janet Yellen, the vice-chair, and Larry Summers, the former Treasury secretary and a top White House economic adviser in 2009 and 2010, are the leading candidates, mentioning them by name and calling them “terrific people”. Interestingly, he left out Don Kohn, a former Fed vice-chair who he had mentioned as a possibility in meetings with congressional Democrats last week. But he did say there were a “couple of other candidates” too. 

Sandra Pianalto, who has served as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, announced she will be retiring early next year after being in the job for a decade.

Ms Pianalto’s departure may not mean too much for monetary policy. She is known for being a centrist, predictable official on the Federal Open Market Committee, backing the chairman’s view without offering positions that are either too dovish or too hawkish. 

Not a milestone to rejoice in. Japan’s debt has tipped into the “quadrillion” zone for the first time. That is, as of the end of June, central government debt, looked like this: Y1,008,628,100,000,000, or $10.4tn.

It surely could not be a clearer message to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that shilly-shallying over fiscal consolidation is no longer an option? Second-quarter economic output figures due on Monday are key to Abe’s decision about whether to raise consumption tax from 5 per cent to 10 per cent by 2015. Back in June in a speech in London, he pinned any decision to raise the tax – one he must make by October – on the strength of the economy in the second quarter.