When Alan Greenspan steps down as chairman of the Federal Reserve System, on January 31, it will mark the end of a nearly twenty-year run for one of the most respected and successful monetary puppeteers in the Fed's ninety-two-year history. Deciphering Greenspan's gnomic phrasings has long been a favorite Wall Street pastime. Now there's a new one: guessing who might succeed him. In June, President Bush tapped Ben Bernanke to chair his Council of Economic Advisers, fueling speculation that the Princeton economist may be the front-runner. When the Irish bookmaker Paddypower.com offered up odds on who will be confirmed as the next Fed chairman, irrationally exuberant bettors reacted like investors to a sizable interest-rate cut, and Bernanke jumped out to an early lead. But four other worthy candidates are in the mix. Here's a tip sheet on the action.
5 to 4: BEN BERNANKE
Why bet on him? The fifty-one-year-old left his position on the Federal Reserve Board to join the White House staff; he has worked closely with Greenspan and has the ear of the president.
Why not bet on him? There aren't many reasons. But here's one: even with his recent appointment to the Bush team, he has the least political experience of all the candidates.