Janet Yellen, as the newly appointed Fed chair and first woman to ever hold the post, will make her first comments today before the House Financial Services Committee and then Thursday before the Senate Banking Committee.
She has addressed these committees before as vice chair for three years and as a leading economist for a long time, but now she faces a whole new spotlight as she steps into the shoes of Ben Bernanke.
What investors are anxious to find out is if Fed officials are going to hold fast to the message that the economy’s outlook is bright enough to withstand a slight pullback in their stimulus but that rates should stay low to fuel a shaky economy, according to Bloomberg.
Her first address is important, because it will also give them a clue as to where she stands on their concerns about the economy and the job market, turmoil in global markets and uncertainty about her direction at the Fed. She has already stated that she wants the U.S. central bank to be known as a champion of Main Street, but does she have what it takes to see it through?
“A new Fed chair’s first testimony is always a testing period,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial.
Yellen will most likely address many issues, including payroll and her likely intention to continue with the strategy to trim bond buying by $10billion, even though last month employer’s added only 113,000 jobs instead of the anticipated 180,000.
“While the last couple of payroll readings have been disappointing, we do not expect this to change the currentcourse of asset-purchase tapering,” Joseph Lavorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. and a former New York Fed economist, said. “We view the recent payroll weakness as temporary and likely to reverse.”
She will also probably back further away from the The Federal Open Market Committee’s December statement that they probably won’t raise the federal funds rate until “well past the time” the jobless rate falls below 6.5 percent. It is reported that most panel members didn’t favor moving the threshold.
It is also likely that she will announce her intention to continue Bernanke’s policy of holding the main rate near zero and gradually tapering monthly bond purchases.
As groundbreaking as her first address is, there is sure to be relentless scrutiny and pleas from both sides of the aisle for the direction which the Fed should now take. Republican lawmakers will most likely try to persuade Yellen to ease up on the incessant regulation of financial institutions and to “be more aggressive in reversing” record stimulus, said David M. Jones, president of DMJ Advisors LLC, a Denver-based economic consulting firm, and a former Fed economist.
On the other hand, Democratic lawmakers are sure to plea for Yellen’s help to over income inequality and persistent joblessness, Jones said.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, Democrat from Ohio who spoke with her at length during the confirmation process said of her recently, “She understands — people that are sober-minded about this understand — that income inequality is bad for the wealthy, too. It’s bad for a long-term growing economy. She’ll be a Fed chair that gets out and sees the real economy more and talks to people.”
These are just a few of the expected inquiries and responses that Janet Yellen will face right away in the beginnings of her term as Fed Chair, and she will likely have a hard time hearing pleas from every direction and playing it right down the middle with Fed policy, but whether or not she will be able to handle it remains to be seen.
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