5 things we want to know about the Fed’s new leader - Movement Mortgage Blog

President Donald Trump this week chose Federal Reserve governor Jerome “Jay” Powell to take the reins as Fed chair, replacing Janet Yellen whose four-year tenure as chief of the central bank ends in February.

It’s the first time in four decades that a president hasn’t reappointed an acting chair to a second term.

Powell, a Republican attorney who has been part of the Fed since 2012, sits on board’s policy-setting committee, meaning for the last five years he’s had a seat at the table as policymakers debate interest rates, inflation, unemployment and other key economic gauges that affect monetary policy. He formerly served as a Treasury Department official in the George H.W. Bush administration and worked for the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm.

Here are five questions (and some answers) we have surrounding the new Fed chair.

What does Powell mean for interest rates?

Although Yellen and Powell differ politically, Powell has never been one to make waves on the board. He’s often sided with Yellen on monetary and regulatory matters, and is expected to take cues from her on gradually raising short-term interest rates and trimming the Fed’s exorbitant balance sheet. He and the chairwoman are so similar that one analyst called him “the G.O.P. version of Yellen.”

Therein may lie one of the reasons Trump chose him. Although he was a vocal critic of Yellen during his campaign, as president, Trump has praised her leadership. He supports lower interest rates, perceiving them as a means of achieving economic growth.

What should banks expect?

Powell favors easing some of the stringent restrictions imposed on financial institutions after the recession, a stance that likely wins him points with the president who favors deregulation.

Still, Powell supports keeping in place some of the Fed’s mandates for banks — mainly, capital retention, stress tests and living wills, annual reports that detail how banks will deal with bankruptcy and liquidation.

Will he change the Fed?

 Powell will likely emerge as a unifying force on the Fed, reinforced by his close working relationship with Randal Quarles, the Fed’s vice chair of banking supervision. Their partnership may be a boon for the central bank. Quarles and Powell have known each other for decades, having worked together at the Treasury Department and Carlyle Group. Many observers consider them closely aligned in both perspective and temperament. It’s likely they’ll forge a close alliance to accomplish shared goals.

How will Powell influence the White House?

 In Powell, Trump has a trusted Fed chief who understands the administration’s aim for deregulation. He’ll be well-positioned to offer insight on how the White House can accomplish reform.

Powell is also adamant that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be taken out of government conservatorship and operate as privatized entities — a longtime goal of Republicans who feel the government’s influence in the residential mortgage market should be minimized. Whether the Trump administration will make GSE reform a priority next year is unclear but Powell could become a valuable ally in helping White House officials navigate what is sure to be an uphill battle in Congress.

Will Wall Street welcome him?

 Fed watchers are upfront in their assessment of Powell: he’s boring compared to the other candidates Trump considered for the post. But he’s also the central bank’s safest choice because his policy leanings are clear and, although he’s not an economist like past Fed chairs, he’s experienced.

He’s open to considering regulatory changes, which could boost financial stocks. Treasury yields calmed this week when it became clear he was Trump’s pick. The stock market may fall in love with Powell because he represents continuity. If his steers the Fed to signing off on less regulation, monetary policy soften, pleasing the stock market.

Now, let’s talk about jobs

 Friday’s jobs report shows that U.S. employment in October heated as the economy begins to rebound from the fall’s hurricane-fueled job losses. The economy added 261,000 jobs last month while unemployment fell to 4.1 percent, the lowest it’s been since December 2000, according to the New York Times.

Even though economists expected a larger jump for October, Friday’s numbers still underscore a remarkable turnaround from September when the economy lost 33,000 jobs. Economists have blamed the dip on Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which devastated Texas, Florida and the Gulf Coast, and hit the regional economies of Houston and South Florida.


This latest report from the Labor Department suggests that employees are now returning to work after a lull from the storms.

Something else to note in Friday’s report was that average earnings fell by one cent to $26.53 after rising in the previous months. Sluggish wage growth has been worrisome for the Fed as it contemplates raising the benchmark interest rate again in December. Fed members are concerned whether the market can bear further hikes if inflation remains stubbornly low.

But the uptick in job gains might put them at ease. Employment in several sectors, such as manufacturing, hospitality and health care, continues to grow. Said Mike Loewengart, vice president of investment of E*Trade Financial, to CNBC: “Despite coming in below expectations, this is the type of report the Fed was looking for to sign, seal and deliver a rate hike in December.”