Nov. 6 election looms large for monetary policy
WASHINGTON — The next significant event for monetary policy is not the Federal Reserve’s meeting Tuesday and Wednesday, which is likely to pass quietly, but the presidential election two weeks later.
Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, has said he opposes the Fed’s efforts to stimulate the economy as ineffective and inflationary. And as president, he has promised to appoint a new Fed chairman.
The term of the current chairman, Ben Bernanke, runs through early 2014. But the impact could be immediate as investors revise their assumptions about the future.
“I certainly would expect the markets to respond, that they will take this as the Fed being more hawkish and that will be reflected in rates,” said Laurence H. Meyer, senior managing director at Macroeconomic Advisers and a former Fed governor.
Such a reversal would be welcomed by critics who argue that the Fed’s efforts are undermining economic stability, and mourned by supporters who say more must be done to revive economic growth. But Meyer and others cautioned that the impact would not be fully felt until it became clear whom Romney intended to nominate as a successor to Bernanke.
A range of experts regard two of Romney’s economic advisers as the most likely candidates: R. Glenn Hubbard, who chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, and N. Gregory Mankiw, who followed Hubbard in that role. John B. Taylor, a Stanford University economics professor and outspoken critic of Fed policy, also is mentioned frequently.
The choice of Taylor — or a like-minded critic — would represent a dramatic step to change the course of monetary policy. By contrast, Mankiw, an economist at Harvard University, and Hubbard, dean of the Columbia University business school, both are seen as centrists.
“If people really do think it would be Taylor, I would think that would interfere” with the Fed’s ability to influence markets, said Joseph E. Gagnon, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a former Fed economist. “But if it’s not Taylor, I don’t think it would have such a large effect.”
The Fed announced its latest stimulus campaign in September. The central bank said it would purchase mortgage securities at a rate of $40 billion a month until it concluded that the outlook for the labor market had improved “substantially.” It also said it intended to keep short-term interest rates near zero at least until mid-2015, extending its previous forecast from late 2014.