Stock-market investors appeared to be cheering President Joe Biden’s decision Monday to nominate Jerome Powell to serve a second four-year term as Federal Reserve chairman.
The move had been widely anticipated by many, including betting markets.
Some questions about Powell being renamed to the helm of the central had been lingering as markets have been anxious about a surge in inflation in the aftermath of the pandemic, and some have argued that the central bank needs to employ more aggressive tactics or risk a 1970s-style surge in the price of goods and services amid supply-chain bottlenecks and a surge in demand.
Biden’s choice was seen as coming down to Powell or Fed Gov. Lael Brainard, who was viewed by analysts as potentially more dovish on inflation. Biden nominated Brainard to a term as vice chairwoman, succeeding Richard Clarida, whose term as the central bank’s No. 2 official expires on Jan. 31.
“Both were great candidates but sticking with Powell provided valuable continuity as the Fed seeks to implement its new framework and continue to put employment alongside price stability as a core mandate,” said Kathryn Judge, a professor at Columbia Law School. “Particularly with recent price increases and growing concerns about inflation, there are benefits from standing by a trusted and widely respected leader.”
“The reappointment of Chairman Powell is a very positive development for markets and the economy because it provides continuity at a critical time,” wrote Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance, in emailed comments.
Powell’s nomination also comes as the Fed has begun to taper its monthly purchases of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities, on a timetable to wind down the program by June. Many also are anticipating that the Fed also might look to raise rates two or three times in 2022 as it attempts to rein in the surge in inflation and normalize interest rates in the aftermath of the worst pandemic in over a century.
“The economy is experiencing an increase in inflation and the Fed has already taken steps to reduce their extraordinary stimulus measures (tapering), but they will need to move more quickly in addressing the inflation threats so that they don’t become entrenched,” Zaccarelli writes.
The nominations end months of uncertainty and speculation about the leadership of the Fed at what is viewed as a crucial time in the recovery phase of the economy. Markets have been climbing to all-time highs even as yields for long-dated Treasurys were receding, suggesting that doubts remain about the economic outlook.
The yield for the 10-year Treasury note
was hovering just below 1.60%, after climbing over 5 basis points, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite indexes touched record intraday highs on Monday, the start of a historically solid period for equities in the week of Thanksgiving.
On top of that, the Fed appears split about monetary-policy next steps, with some advocating for a go-slow approach to tapering and interest-rate raises, while others have been championing a faster rate of normalization moves to beat back inflation. The pace of consumer inflation over the past year marched to 6.2% in October from 5.4% in the prior month. That is more than triple the Federal Reserve’s 2% target and is the highest rate since November 1990.
For his part, Powell has been viewed by supporters within the administration as a steady hand, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources, describing him as helping “restore bipartisan support for the central bank one decade after its reputation was badly bruised by the 2008 financial crisis.”
“I have full confidence after their trial by fire over the last 20 months that Chair Powell and Dr. Brainard will provide the strong leadership our country needs,” Biden said in a statement.
The Senate is expected to confirm Powell, 68, before his first term expires in February.
The Journal report said that putting Brainard as the Fed No. 2 represents a compromise for Biden with progressives in his party who had criticized Powell. Indeed, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, accused Powell of watering down financial safeguards put in place after the panic of 2008 and called him a “dangerous man.”
Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist for LPL Financial, Powell’s renomination represents “one less worry now,” for markets participants.
Jeff Klingelhofer, co-head of investments at Thornburg Investment Management, said that “with elevating inflation concerns on just about everyone’s mind, Brainard would have been more difficult for the market to digest as chair.”
“Her appointment to vice chair offers Democrats a ballast to Powell and a likely regulatory win,” he wrote, in emailed remarks.
Meanwhile, Powell’s pick is likely to be a positive for digital assets like bitcoin
which the central banker has said that he would not move to restrict. The Fed also has been working on its own central bank digital currency, or CBDC.
Biden will still oversee three other nominations for the Fed, including a replacement for Federal Reserve Gov. Randal Quarles, after a number of members announcement early retirements. Quarles said that he would resign at the end of December.