Trump expected to name pick for Fed chair on Thursday

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump will names his choice for the next Federal Reserve chair Thursday, White House officials told CNBC.
  • All indications so far are that Trump is most likely to pick current Fed Governor Jerome "Jay" Powell for the position.
Trump to announce Fed chair nominee on Thursday, says White House official

President Donald Trump will make one of the biggest potentially market-moving appointments of his tenure Thursday, when he names his choice for the next Federal Reserve chair, White House officials told CNBC.

Markets had been expecting the president to make the nomination before he left for a foreign trip Friday.

All indications so far are that Trump is most likely to pick current Fed Governor Jerome "Jay" Powell for the position. Other leading contenders include former Fed Governor Kevin Warsh, Stanford economist John Taylor, and current Chair Janet Yellen herself.

Should he go with Powell, it would represent an opportunity for him to put his personal stamp on the central bank while also essentially staying the course Yellen has charted since she took over the position in 2014.

"If Trump nominates Powell to replace Yellen it will imply continuity in the Federal Reserve's interest rate and the balance sheet policy, at least for a time," Lewis Alexander, U.S. chief economist at Nomura, said in a note.

"Over a longer horizon there is more uncertainty. As a governor, Powell has consistently
supported policies proposed by Chairs (ben) Bernanke and Yellen. However, it is unclear how
strong Powell's own preferences for monetary policy are and it is unclear how those
preferences will evolve," he added.

During her term, Yellen has been responsible for gingerly moving the Fed off the ultra-accommodative monetary policy it has followed since the financial crisis.

In December 2015, the Fed enacted its first rate increase in more than nine years and brought its benchmark interest rate off near-zero where it had stayed for seven years. Also, the Fed this month began the first steps in reducing its $4.5 trillion balance sheet, which consists largely of bonds the central bank purchased in an effort to lower mortgage rates and push investors to riskier assets like stocks.

Though he was critical of Yellen on the campaign trail in 2016, he has largely praised her this year.

At one point, it was thought that Trump would select his chief economic advisor, Gary Cohn, but that changed after Cohn publicly criticized the president's response to the racial violence in Charlottesville over the summer.

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—With reporting by CNBC's Steve Liesman