News Column

President Obama Hints at Bernanke Exit

June 19, 2013
Ben Bernanke

President Obama let slip this week that he may not be inclined to dissuade Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke from stepping down when his term ends in January.

In an interview Sunday with talk show host Charlie Rose, Obama compared Bernanke to departing FBI Director Robert Mueller, saying, "He's already stayed a lot longer than he wanted or he was supposed to."

In the interview, which aired Monday, Obama said Bernanke "has been an outstanding partner along with the White House, in helping us recover much stronger than, for example, our European partners, from what could have been an economic crisis of epic proportions."

The president appoints the Fed chairman.

Bernanke, 59, has generally evaded questions about his personal plans, saying he's been focused on trying to shift a tepid recovery and job market into a higher gear. But at his last news conference in March, he said he's spoken "a bit" with Obama about his future, adding, "I don't think that I'm the only person in the world who can manage" the winding down of the Fed's extraordinary stimulus.

Bernanke could shed light on his intentions at a news conference this afternoon following a Fed policymakers' meeting that began Tuesday.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, the Fed has purchased more than $2.5 trillion in government bonds to pump cash into the financial system and hold down long-term interest rates. The actions have been credited with sparking a housing rebound and stock market rally, both of which have been key to recent moderate economic growth despite large federal spending cuts and tax hikes.

In a USA TODAY survey of economists earlier this year, about two-thirds predicted Bernanke would leave the Fed when his second four-year term ends in January.

"The workload has been extremely high, and the stress level has been extremely elevated for quite some time," Barclays Capital economist Michael Gapen, a top Fed staffer from 2008 to 2010, said in February.

Likely candidates to succeed Bernanke include Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen and former Fed vice chairman Donald Kohn.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's term ends in January.

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Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013. Distributed by MCT Information Services

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