The decision to reappoint Powell was made easier by Quarles stepping down from the Fed Board of Governors ahead of schedule after his position of Fed Vice Chair for banking supervision ended in October. It allows Lael Brainard, who the progressives had favored for Fed chair, to step into that vice-chair role and roll back some of the changes introduced by Quarles without the awkwardness of him sitting across the table.
This decision also removes uncertainty with Powell’s current term ending in February. Had there been any delay in appointing a new Chair due to a lack of political support this could have caused significant financial market nervousness, particularly if we are right and the economy is soaring, inflation is above 6% and the Fed is still stimulating the economy with QE.
The Fed will still taper, and will likely hike in 2022 and the rates market will remains in a state of anticipation for tighter policy and a higher rates environment generally.
Moreover, with two vacancies on the Fed Board of Governors now that Quarles is departing, Biden has the opportunity to shape the Fed further to ensure that monetary policy is truly focused on achieving the “broad-based and inclusive” goals as set out in the updated Fed’s 2020 policy framework.
In US treasuries, this has mean a sharp drop along the entire US yield curve, giving the euro and the yen a strong boost, as the euro in particular was headed south and fast on the policy divergence theme of the ECB seen likely to maintain zero rates and even some level of QE out over the horizon while the market had priced in three full Fed rate hikes by the end of next year before this sudden reversal. On the weak side, while the US dollar has fallen within the G3 and is approximately flat against sterling, the smaller currencies are sharply lower against all of the above, and EM.