Ben Bernanke has been appointed to replace Alan Greenspan, who’s been Chairman of the US Federal Reserve for just about as long as I can remember (the Volcker squeeze was in the early 80s, so he hasn’t been there forever, but it often seems that way).
Bernanke was the obvious candidate, but there was always the possibility that Bush would decide to mend fences with the base by appointing some obscure supply-sider a la Harriet Miers.
Bernanke’s appointment suggests a general bias towards an expansionary monetary policy for the US, and therefore continued low short-term interest rates for Australia. He was prominent in saying that the Fed would not tolerate deflation, and could print money if necessary. More recently, he’s taken a very relaxed view of the US current account deficit, seeing it as the inevitable counterpart to a ‘global savings glut’. I agree with him on the first point but not on the second; there’s a significant risk that the wheels will fall off the entire policy, leading to a rapid depreciation of the dollar and an uncontrolled increase in interest rates, both of which would flow through to Australia.
Market movements were consistent with this analysis (stock prices went up, the dollar fell and the 10-year bond rate rose), but weren’t very big, suggesting that no-one is expecting really big changes.
fn1. This is a redundancy, as there are no prominent supply-siders in the US economics profession. That is, not in the sense of supply-side popularised by Jude Wanniski and Arthur Laffers, although Mundell shares the supply-side liking for a gold standard. Almost all economists are supply-siders in the sense that they think attention should be paid to the supply side of the economy as well as the demand side.