While her term ended – for all practical purposes – with the conclusion of this week’s January FOMC meeting, former Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s last official day at the helm of the world’s most important central bank was marked by an explosion of volatility in the Dow, with the blue chips recording their worst single-day selloff since the collapse of Lehman brothers.
And even though it’s tempting to suspect Friday’s selloff might foreshadow what’s to come during the Powell era, Yellen admitted during an interview with PBS Newshour that she was disappointed to not be reappointed for a second term by President Trump – and that, if she had her druthers, she would’ve opted to stay
“I would have liked to serve an additional term and I did make that clear, so I will say I was disappointed not to be reappointed,” Yellen said Friday.
“I think things are looking very strong.”
Despite the volatility of the past week and the first nascent signs of wage growth in years – which should worry a central bank whose primary responsibility is to put a floor under plunging markets – Yellen says she expects interest rate hikes to proceed as planned.
“The Federal Reserve has been on a path of gradual rate increases and if conditions continue as they have been, that process is likely to continue,” she said.
“And as it happens we would expect long rates to move up.”
Unlike fellow former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan – who this week declared that both stocks and bond valuations are in bubble territory – Yellen was careful not to use such strident language.
“I don’t want to label what we’re seeing as a bubble.
But I would say that asset valuations are generally elevated…for the stock market, the ratio of price to earnings…is near the high end of its historical range.
If we look at for example commercial real estate and other assets, we’re seeing high valuations.”
But should Americans be worried about the markets?
“They should be careful and I would say diversified in their investments. What we look at is the likely resilience of the economy and the financial system… In that regard, we have a banking system that is much stronger and better capitalized and better able to withstand a shock than prior to the financial crisis.”
Stlll, Yellen is refusing to rule out another selloff.
“Asset valuations could change I’m not predicting that that would happen and I wouldn’t rule that out,” she said.
Asked if there will be consequences to Republicans’ rollback of post-crisis regulations, Yellen passive aggressively listed off the “improvements” made during her tenure at the helm of the San Francisco Fed and then as chairwoman of the Fed.
“In the area that I’m most familiar with – banking regulation – we’ve put in place very strong improvements to make the financial system more resilient. More and better quality capital. Capital that serves as a buffer…if there are shocks, it leaves firms able to lend..All of us need to remember the financial crisis and the terrible toll it took on Americans,” she added.
When looking back at her tenure, Yellen said she feels “very good” about the progress the economy has made, noting that the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level in decades.
“When I see the unemployment rate fall to 4.1%…I feel very good about the progress we’ve seen there,” Yellen said.
Watch the rest of what was effectively Yellen’s exit interview below: