Obama Picks Yellen to Succeed Bernanke at the Federal Reserve

The Fed's vice chair would face massive balance sheet and fragile recovery.

Janet Yellen, vice chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, places her name plate at her seat at the International Monetary Conference in Shanghai, China, Monday, June 3, 2013.
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President Barack Obama will nominate Janet Yellen to be the chairwoman of Federal Reserve, the White House said late Tuesday, according to the New York Times.

[READ: Larry Summers Drops Out of Running for Fed Chair]

Yellen is currently the vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve. If confirmed, she would replace current Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is nearing the end of his second term at the helm of the nation's central bank. She would also be the first woman to be in charge of the Fed.

Obama is scheduled to make the formal announcement at 3 p.m. EDT on Wednesday.

Yellen would be the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve, but that's not the only way she would make history: if confirmed, she would also face the task of unwinding the central bank's massive balance sheet.

The Federal Reserve currently holds $3.7 trillion in assets on its balance sheet, a total that has ballooned during Bernanke's tenure. The massive increase is because of three rounds of quantitative easing, a stimulus program in which the bank buys assets to push interest rates low, stimulate borrowing, and boost the stock market. In mid-2008, before the first round of easing, the Fed held around $900 billion in assets.

Shrinking the Fed's balance sheet amid a fragile recovery is among the most daunting challenges the next Fed chair will face. Already global markets are watching the Fed closely to see when it will taper its current round of easing, which consists of $85 billion in monthly purchases of treasuries and mortgage-backed securities.

[OPINION: 3 Big Challenges for the Next Federal Reserve Chair]

Yellen's nomination comes after months of speculation about who would replace Bernanke, a George W. Bush nominee whom Obama nominated for a second term in 2009, amid a deepening economic crisis.

Yellen comes armed with years of experience both in central banking and in Washington. Prior to being the vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, she served as president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. She also served as the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton administration, from 1997 through 1999.

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