Leading Contenders for Fed Chief Emerge

Morning Money Memo…

The Federal Reserve's policy of encouraging low interest rates - both short-term and long-term - may last a while longer now that Larry Summers has announced his withdrawal as a potential contender for Ben Bernanke's job. That's the clear view of financial markets. Summers was considered more hawkish on the economy, which means that most people thought he would be more likely to rein in the government's massive stimulus program. Stock futures rallied after Summers' pulled his name from the list. Today's front-runner to be the next chairman is 67-year-old Janet Yellin, a key architect of current policy. Yellin is now vice president of the Fed and is believed to be a strong supporter of keeping interest rates low as long as possible.

But Yellin's nomination is hardly a done deal. Other names being mentioned include Donald Cohn, a former vice chairman at the Fed, who was close to former Fed chief Alan Greenspan. A wild card pick could be Stanley Fisher, an American who now runs Israel's central bank. Other possible picks include Roger Ferguson, CEO of the financial services company TIAA-CREF

The five-year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers which sparked a financial panic and worsened the recession is being marked by a speech today from President Obama. The shock to the system had a profound impact on consumers. "What happened in 2008 is not only did we get the recession, we also got smart phones and we got social media," says consumer behavior expert Eric Holtzclaw of Laddering Works, a market strategy and marketing firm. Not only did shoppers become more cautious, many are also much better informed on price comparisons. "We can have conversations with other people and find out whether or not a product or service works." Holtzclaw says many retailers have been slow to catch up with this seismic shift in shopping habits, ignoring consumers' use of mobile devices when they are in stores. "They should have social media campaigns that really interact with their consumers."

The gap in employment rates between America's highest- and lowest-income families has stretched to its widest levels since officials began tracking the data a decade ago, according to an analysis of government data conducted for The Associated Press. The analysis shows that US households with income of more than $150,000 a year have a very low unemployment rate of 3.2 percent. At the same time, middle-income workers are increasingly being pushed into lower-wage jobs. Many of them in turn are displacing lower-skilled, low-income workers, who become unemployed or are forced to work fewer hours. Rates of unemployment for the lowest-income families have topped 21 percent.

Federal regulators say companies can't require employees to receive their pay on expensive debit cards, citing complaints from workers of high and unexpected fees on the cards. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is warning employers against using only payroll cards. It says by law workers must be able to choose how they receive their pay.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio abcnews.com Twitter: daviesnow

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