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UK finance minister picks hedge fund economist as top adviser

LONDON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - British finance minister Philip Hammond has named Steffan Ball, previously an economist at U.S. hedge fund Citadel LLC and the U.S. Federal Reserve, as his new top economic adviser, a few weeks before he sets out his annual budget.

Ball recorded his new role on a professional networking website and a Treasury spokeswoman confirmed the appointment on Monday. He succeeds Karen Ward, who formerly worked at HSBC but left to join J.P. Morgan Asset Management as its chief European market strategist in September.

Ball joined the U.S. Federal Reserve at the height of the global financial crisis in September 2008 after completing a doctorate in economics at the University of Cambridge, and focused on the U.S. housing market and consumer spending.

He moved to the hedge fund Citadel in 2013, where he worked in New York as a global economist.

While at the Federal Reserve, Ball was seconded to the Bank of England in late 2012, where he forecast consumer spending and studied the effect of quantitative easing on growth, according to his personal profile.

Ball's appointment comes as Hammond prepares his Nov. 22 annual budget and is regularly assessing the likely economic consequences of Brexit - an area where pro-Brexit lawmakers say he is too pessimistic.

Although British public borrowing fell to a 10-year low in September, Hammond has little scope to tackle concern about squeezed public spending due to the likelihood that the government's budget watchdog will adopt gloomier assumptions about long-run productivity growth.

Earlier on Monday the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a leading think tank, said downgraded productivity forecasts would render unrealistic Hammond's goal of returning Britain's public finances to surplus by the mid-2020s.

Hammond has said he intends to continue with a "measured and balanced" approach to reducing Britain's budget deficit. (Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Alison Williams)