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US Senate Confirms Janet Yellen as New Central Bank Chief

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Janet Yellen as the new chair of the country's central bank, making her one of the most powerful figures in world economic circles.

Monday's vote was 56 to 26. A simple majority was all that was needed to confirm her nomination by President Barack Obama.

When sworn in, Yellen will be the first woman to head the 100-year-old Federal Reserve, replacing Ben Bernanke, whose eight-year tenure expires at the end of January.

The head of the Federal Reserve often has influenced world economic decisions. Economists predict that the 67-year-old Yellen, the Fed's current vice chair, will continue many of Bernanke's policies. They both have called for a gradual end to the central bank's direct support of the U.S. economy and continued low interest rates.

The chief economist at the country's biggest bank, James Glassman of JPMorgan Chase, tells VOA that Federal Reserve policies will be shaped by the performance of the world's largest economy as it recovers from its steep recession in 2008 and 2009.

"It's all going to be guided by how well the economy performs, how quickly the labor market improves, how successful the Fed is in getting inflation back up to the 2 percent level that they, every one of them embraces as the right goal to have."

The Federal Reserve has been buying billions of dollars of securities to pump more money into the economy to boost job growth and keep long-term interest rates low. But the central bank has begun to trim the purchases, cutting them from the $85 billion a month it had made for more than a year to $75 billion this month.

Glassman sees that direct stimulus of the U.S. economy coming to an end.

"In the markets, we anticipate that this will wind down over the course of the year, so that by fall, they'll be done with it."

When President Barack Obama nominated Yellen three months ago, she said many American workers suffered during the downturn, often laid off from long-time jobs as the economy weakened.

"Too many Americans still cannot find a job and worry how they will pay their bills and provide for their families."

Since then, the U.S. economy has advanced. The unemployment rate has dipped to a five-year low of 7 percent, a figure that is still a percentage point or more above the country's historical standards. But employers have been adding about 200,000 jobs a month.

The Federal Reserve is predicting that the U.S. economy will steadily grow in 2014, an assessment Glassman agrees with. He is predicting growth of more than 3 percent this year, compared to about 2 percent in recent years, and an even faster advance in 2015.

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