×

Why is Yellen skipping Jackson Hole?

Long the exclusive province of hunters, the outdoorsman and the fly fisherman, Wyoming has more recently become synonymous for those hunting for clues about economic policy coming out of the Federal Reserve.

The annual economic symposium there, sponsored by the Kansas City Fed, has become a virtual staging ground for new policy declarations from the likes of Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke and global central bankers who want to drive home policy points in late August, just before everyone returns from their summer vacation. But something funny is happening on the way to Jackson Hole this year. Fed Chair, Janet Yellen, has decided not to participate, the first Fed chair to skip the trip in modern memory.


Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks at the Institute for New Economic Thinking Conference on Finance and Society at the IMF in Washington on May 6, 2015.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks at the Institute for New Economic Thinking Conference on Finance and Society at the IMF in Washington on May 6, 2015.

Of course this has Fed watchers and market participants scratching their heads over why the nation's top banker would pass on an opportunity to mingle with all the other top central bankers from around the world, economists and legendary investors, at an event that has become a staple for the policy-making elite.

Read MoreNot yet: Fed holds rates at zero; no hint for hike

It is possible that Ms. Yellen may simply want to spread her speaking appearances across multiple venues and lower expectations from what comes out of Jackson Hole every August.

In recent years, policy-change pronouncements — from further interest-rate cuts to additional rounds of quantitative easing — have been either hinted at, or announced, at the symposium, often rescuing the financial markets from a summer-long slump. So it is rather curious that Ms. Yellen has chosen not to attend.

With everyone in the financial markets expecting the Fed's first interest-rate hike in over a decade to be announced in September, is it possible that Ms. Yellen would rather stay mum in the days leading up to a historic and, potentially, momentous change in monetary policy?

It seems that by speaking at Jackson Hole in late August, anything said or done in September would be anti-climactic. Rather ironically, former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, said this week that the first rate hike from the Fed is likely to be anti-climactic whenever it is announced.

Read More Ben Bernanke: I see no extreme moves here

One can only hope that is the case.

Are there political reasons that might be forcing Ms. Yellen to lower her profile? Congress is pressing her to make more visits to the Hill to discuss both monetary AND regulatory policy, as the legislature tries to exert more influence over the Fed's multiple mandates.

In addition, there has been some talk that Congress is concerned about whether Ms. Yellen was the source of that Fed leak to the Fed forecasting firm, Medley Global Advisors, founded by the late Richard Medley. He was among those with links to Washington whose Fed forecasts could move markets.

Ms. Yellen admitted to having met with representatives of the firm in June of 2012, though she has denied revealing any sensitive information to them. Other Fed staffers also met with reps from Medley, who a couple months later, released a near perfect prediction of information the Fed would make known a mere day later.

The Department of Justice, and the Fed's internal investigating arm, is also investigating the matter, according to Ms. Yellen, herself.

While I think Ms. Yellen, more likely than not, simply does not want to pre-empt any move the Fed might make in September, it's also possible that she would prefer to keep her head down for a while and announce policy changes through official channels, rather than hint at coming events.

The Fed, for years, has been trying to boost transparency as Congress is aiming to make the Fed, not only more transparent, but also more accountable, for its policy-making decisions.

This can be a tricky time for the Fed in coming months. Interest rates have been held down by the central bank since late 2008, while other unconventional policy measures have been launched and ended in the last six years.

Read MoreArggh! Market is screaming for a Fed decision

Normalizing policy, if it starts in September, will be an event that needs to build up, given how frequently Fed officials have suggested that rates will rise sometime later this year, assuming the data support a move.

Ms. Yellen may simply want the data, and the Fed, to speak for itself at exactly the moment of impact, and not a minute sooner than that.

Commentary by Ron Insana, a CNBC and MSNBC contributor and the author of four books on Wall Street. He also editor of "Insana's Market Intellgence," available at Marketfy.com. Follow him on Twitter @rinsana.