Fischer’s Next Stop, The Fed?

YERUSHALAYIM -

Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer said he’s resigning his post in June to be closer to his family in the United States, but that hasn’t stopped speculation about what else he might be doing once he’s there.

Some think Fischer will succeed Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve Board Chairman who is expected to step down in 2014.

“Stanley Fischer saved Israel’s economy. Can he save America’s?” was the way a Washington Post headline put it on Friday.

Fischer’s name has reportedly begun to come up in conversations among Fed watchers, and in a way that reflects the uncommon esteem in which he is held.

“Every August, central bankers from across the globe, who collectively pull the levers of the world economy, descend on Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. They enjoy a symposium of big economic ideas and strenuous afternoon hikes. At one of their dinners a few years ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke looked around at some fellow titans of finance. ‘Do you know what everyone at this table has in common?” he mused. “They all had Stanley Fischer as their thesis adviser.’”

Fischer’s resume would be at the top of any prospective employer’s pile: professor of economics at MIT, where he mentored Bernanke, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, former chief White House economist Greg Mankiw; no. 2 man at the IMF, where he helped contain the Asian economic crisis of 1998; Citigroup vice chairman, where he ran all work for public-sector clients at what was at the time the world’s largest bank; and, since 2005, governor of the Bank of Israel.

Israel’s central bank master has been given much of the credit for saving Israel from the ravages of the 2008-09 financial crisis. For only one quarter — the second of 2009 — did the Israeli economy shrink, by a mere annual rate of 0.2%. During that same period, the U.S. economy shrank by an annual rate of 4.6%. Many countries, including Britain and Germany, fared even worse.

Fischer, though 69, appears to be in good health. He has retained his American citizenship and was a candidate to lead the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2003 and the failure of his 2011 bid to head the IMF was attributed in many circles to his being “too American” for a position traditionally held by a European.