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Obama hints Bernanke on way out

| Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 7:12 p.m.

WASHINGTON — President Obama suggested he might not renominate Ben Bernanke for a third term as chairman of the Federal Reserve, saying the central bank chief has stayed in the job longer than originally planned.

In a PBS interview that aired late Monday, Obama did not directly answer a question about whether he would renominate Bernanke, whose term as chairman ends in January.

Instead, Obama praised Bernanke and compared him to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, who is stepping down in September after 12 years on the job.

“I think Ben Bernanke's done an outstanding job,” Obama told PBS' Charlie Rose in the interview taped Sunday.

“Ben Bernanke's a little bit like Bob Mueller, the head of the FBI, where he's already stayed a lot longer than he wanted or he was supposed to,” Obama said.

With the Fed playing an oversized role in the U.S. economy, investors and analysts are keenly interested in who will be heading the central bank next year and beyond.

Fed policymakers are grappling with when and how to start pulling back on their unprecedented stimulus efforts.

Bernanke guided the central bank through the Great Recession and financial crisis, and could be ready to step aside after more than seven grueling years in the job. But he also could decide he would like to continue leading the Fed through the process of unwinding its stimulus programs.

The Fed's Open Market Committee started a two-day meeting Tuesday, and Bernanke is set to hold his quarterly news conference Wednesday amid speculation that the central bank soon might start reducing its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases.

Bernanke, who has been Fed chairman since Feb. 1, 2006, is a Republican who was originally tapped for the job by President George W. Bush.

Bernanke hasn't indicated whether he would seek another term. His second four-year term ends on Jan. 31.

Asked at a congressional hearing last month whether he would accept another term if Obama offered it, Bernanke said, “I'm not prepared to answer that question now.”

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