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Will GOP start Yellen over Obama's Fed pick?

Janet Yellen
Source: Federal Reserve | Flickr
Janet Yellen

It's not entirely clear if global markets are staging a modest rally because of some hope of progress on the shutdown, or on the announcement that Vice Chair Janet Yellen would be President Obama's nominee for Chair of the Federal Reserve.

On the Washington deadlock, the Republicans seem to have abandoned defunding Obamacare. The idea gaining steam now is a short-term hike in the debt ceiling, accompanied by appointment of a Congressional committee to negotiate spending reductions.

On the surface, Yellen's nomination should be at least a short-term plus for the market. A taper is certainly not happening before December and maybe later, and Yellen will certainly keep rates low as long as possible.

Still, the timing, as cynics on Wall Street have noted, is curious. The Senate Banking Committee will likely hold hearings on Yellen's nomination shortly after the debt ceiling deadline of Oct. 17. That sets the stage for another confrontation with the Republicans, who will likely unanimously oppose Yellen.

Bottom line: The Yellen nomination is going to be another very public slug-fest over President Obama's economic policies, including Obamacare. At the very least, the Republicans will argue that by nominating a dove, President Obama now owns both quantitative easing and the effects of the (eventual) taper.

And remember: People like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz were not even around when Bernanke was renominated in 2010, so they have never been a part of a nomination process. They certainly will be now.

And it's going to come in the wake of the debt ceiling fight, which will likely not even be resolved by then.

What will the outlook be? It's doubtful the Republicans can derail the nomination. If Cory Booker wins the New Jersey special election next week, it looks like a 55-45 Democrat-Republican Senate (Bernie Saunders in Vermont and Angus King in Maine are independents but will likely vote Democratic). I suppose a filibuster is a possibility, in which case they will need five Republicans to break it.

One final point: Yellen will apparently become Acting Chairman on Feb. 1 when Bernanke's term expires because she is Vice Chair.

Elsewhere

1) Alcoa earnings: The good news is Alcoa handily beat estimates (11 cents vs. estimates of 6 cents) and reaffirmed their outlook for aluminum demand of seven percent growth.

Unfortunately, given the weak performance of the stock, there was some hope they would raise demand estimates. Instead, they kept estimates intact across all their major industries: Beverage cans (up 1-2 percent), automotive (up 1-4 percent), aerospace (up 9-10 percent) and commercial building & construction (up 4-5 percent). There was some minor tweaking of regional forecasts, Chinese automotive, for example is now expected to increase 9-11 percent, versus prior estimates of 7-10 percent.

2) REIT IPO. QTS Realty Trust (QTS), a REIT that operates multi-tenant data centers, prices 12.25 million shares at $21 each, below $27 to $30 range. There's been a lot of competition in the data center space this year. Companies that operate those centers, like Equninix (EQIX) and InterXion Holdings and CyrusOne are all down double-digits this year.

3) Finally I noted yesterday that the VIX was in backwardation--that is, the current contract price is higher than the price out three months. In the past, this has marked good buying points as it indicates moments of high stress.

By CNBC's Bob Pisani

  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Wall Street