The future of Federal Reserve policy — which has served as the linchpin of the second-longest bull run in market history — hinges on a choice between conformity and change.
One side are those offering basically the same path the central bank has been on for the past decade or more, a course that includes low interest rates and a heavy hand when it comes to regulating the nation's banking system. They're represented by current Chair Janet Yellen as well as incumbent Governor Jerome "Jay" Powell and dark horse Neel Kashkari, the head of the Minneapolis Fed.
On the other side are the agents of change.
They would chart a Fed that would take its foot off the accelerator more quickly, raising rates and unwinding the $4.5 trillion balance sheet built up during the crisis-era stimulus efforts. On top of that, they would ease up on banks, and are represented most prominently by current front-runner Kevin Warsh, a former Fed governor, and longshot John Taylor, a Stanford economist known for the rate-setting rule bearing his name.
Then there's the middle road. Gary Cohn, currently President Donald Trump's chief economic advisor, probably would advocate both a more dovish approach to rates, like the status quo group, and a looser regulatory approach, like the rebels.
It will be up to Trump to make the choice, and he has indicated he will do so in the next two or three weeks.
Whichever side prevails, or whether it's yet another way that the market has not considered, will be key both for the future of monetary policy as well as the economy and how the U.S. fits into a shifting global framework.
"This is a president who doesn't go along with conventional thinking," said Brian Gardner, managing director at financial services firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. "There's a higher possibility of a surprise than there has been in past selections of Fed chairmen."
Still, when all is said and done Gardner thinks Trump will pick either Warsh or Yellen, though the two would seem to sit on opposite ideological ends. Gardner thinks Yellen stands a better chance than market chatter currently gives her, with the thinking being that Trump likes the combination of a hot stock market and a weak dollar.
"Sitting Fed chairs tend to get renominated by new presidents," he said. "A new president wants continuity, doesn't want to be rocking the boat, although this one clearly does like rocking the boat."