Lawrence Summers

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. 

James Politi

Larry Summers’ days as steward of the Obama administration’s economic policy are numbered. The White House has just released a statement, after two days of frenzied speculation, confirming Mr Summers’ departure as director of the National Economic Council at the end of the year to take up a teaching post at Harvard University.

Mr Summers‘ decision to leave the administration will no doubt rekindle concerns that the Obama administration’s economic team is burned out, after more than a year and a half of war with high unemployment and slow growth. It also reflects mounting pressure for the White House to refresh its approach to economic policy, as the recovery continues to sputter forward.