Fed’s Bullard Says He Would Take Chair Job, if Ever Offered It

James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said he would “love” to lead the central bank if given the chance.

“Fed chair is of course something I’d love to do,” Mr. Bullard told reporters after giving remarks in New York on Friday. “If I ever got that honor, I would certainly take it. I notice the phone has not been ringing off the hook to get that.”

Mr. Bullard’s comment comes in the midst of an attack by President Trump on his handpicked Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell. Mr. Trump has consistently said he is displeased with Mr. Powell and blames him for slowing the economy by raising interest rates in 2018. Mr. Powell has said he intends to serve out his four-year term as chair, which ends in early 2022.

The comments are notable because Mr. Bullard was recently approached about a position as Fed governor by the Trump administration but turned that role down. Mr. Bullard is a regional Fed president, not a Fed governor, but serves on the Fed’s policymaking body and currently has a vote.

If Mr. Trump is re-elected, he would have an opportunity to replace Mr. Powell.

The Fed is led by seven governors in Washington and 12 regional presidents, who sit at central bank branches across the country. The chair and governors all hold constant and equal votes on monetary policy, but the chair has special powers. Those include marshaling the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee, speaking directly to the public after rate-setting meetings and appearing before Congress.

Mr. Bullard dissented in June in favor of lower interest rates, making him the first voting member of the policy-setting body to do so since Mr. Powell became its leader in early 2018.

On Friday, Mr. Bullard said he would prefer a 0.25 percentage-point cut at the Fed’s next meeting, on July 30 and 31, although he prefers not to prejudge what the rate-setting committee will decide. He also indicated that the Fed might take time to assess the impact of any cut before moving again.

“Even if we make the move here, and then we’re checking the data during the fall, I think we also have to recognize that inflation is a pretty sluggish variable and it might take some time to see some impact,” he said. “I think we assess the data all the way through, up to December, and we could make judgments along the way, but I just wanted to inject some caution that it’s not just in the next 30 days.”

Market participants expect additional easing, and some investors expect a 0.50 percentage-point move as early as this month.

Mr. Bullard said that he would like to “set up some optionality for the future,” and that he would be watching inflation and inflation expectations data to judge whether further rate cuts were warranted.

“If the trade war had more impact than we’re currently projecting, that might be reason to ease further,” he said. “If inflation didn’t react — you’ve got to be careful about this, because it takes a while for inflation to react.”

His low-rate stance has helped win him fans in Washington. But on Friday Mr. Bullard said he did not want to move to a governor position, saying he likes having a research staff and enjoys his job in St. Louis.

He would, however, give it up for the top job.

“It’s something that the stars have to align for that to happen,” Mr. Bullard said.

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