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Fed's Bullard Says He'd 'Love' to Become Fed Chairman

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07/19/2019 | 01:22pm EDT

By Michael S. Derby

NEW YORK -- St. Louis Fed leader James Bullard said Friday he would accept the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve if it were offered to him.

Mr. Bullard, who was speaking with reporters after giving remarks on digital currencies at a conference at Columbia University, didn't say he sought to replace the current central bank leader, Jerome Powell. But he did say that after a long tenure at the central bank its top job would be a dream for him to hold.

"The Fed chair is of course something I'd love to do," Mr. Bullard said in response to a question about whether or not he was interested in joining the Fed's Washington-based Board of Governors. He was responding to a question from a reporter. Mr. Bullard's research director, Christopher Waller, was recently tapped by President Trump to fill one of two remaining slots, but Mr. Bullard had acknowledged recent conversations with the administration about his interest in becoming a governor.

As for filling the Fed's top job, Mr. Bullard said: "I've been in the Fed all my life, all my professional career, and if I ever got that honor I would certainly take it. But I've noticed the phone has not been ringing off the hook to get that, and obviously it's something the stars have to align for that to happen."

Mr. Bullard joined the St. Louis Fed in 1990 as an economist before moving up through the bank and becoming its president in 2008.

Mr. Bullard said that he wasn't interested in taking a governor slot if it were currently available to him. Noting that he already attends meetings of the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee, Mr. Bullard said: "I'm in a policy-making position, I like my position, and I have the support of my board of directors, and my own research staff...it's all very good at least from my point of view."

Mr. Bullard's expression of interest in becoming Fed leader comes at a fraught time for the central bank in its relationship with Mr. Trump. In a breach from decades of practice by the executive branch, the president has repeatedly attacked the Fed for how it is conducting monetary policy, arguing its interest rate choices have held the economy back.

The Fed is widely expected to lower its short-term interest rate target at the Federal Open Market Committee meeting to be held on July 30 and 31. But even so, Mr. Trump has directed much of his ire at Mr. Powell and has claimed he can fire or demote Mr. Powell, although experts say that is almost certainly wrong given the law.

Most believe that Mr. Powell is unlikely to be appointed by the president to a second term, and that has launched speculation over who might fill the role. His current term expires in February 2022.

There are several prominent monetary policy doves in the central bank and Mr. Bullard, who has long opposed Fed rate increases and who has called for a cuts this year, has been one of the names some think Mr. Trump might consider.

A dovish Fed chairman would be more likely to follow the easy money policies the president wants.

Speaking with reporters Friday, Mr. Bullard affirmed that he still wants to see the Fed lower its overnight target rate by 25 basis points at the end of the month, and he believes that will help lift what have been low levels of inflation to move back to the central bank's 2% target.

Mr. Bullard said he isn't yet ready to call for a string of rate cuts. He would like to see one take place and then take stock of its impact on the economy before reconsidering policy. Mr. Bullard said he sees no reason to change the Fed's plans for its balance sheet.

Write to Michael S. Derby at michael.derby@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications

This article was corrected July 21, 2019 to reflect that St. Louis Fed leader James Bullard offered his view on becoming Federal Reserve chair in response to a reporter's question on the matter. The original version of this article incorrectly stated he offered his views unbidden.

This article is part of a news chaine.
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