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More than 350 economists back Yellen for Fed chair

WASHINGTON — More than 350 economists have a signed a letter to President Obama calling on him to nominate Federal Reserve vice chair Janet Yellen to lead the Fed. The letter is designed to draw attention back to Yellen amid signs that Obama is leaning toward nominating his former economic adviser Larry Summers.

The letter, whose signers include economists with past ties to Obama, credits Yellen for prescience in warning in 2005 about an impending real estate meltdown, for her consensus style of leadership, and for her commitment to job growth.

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Obama is expected to announce his nomination as early as this month. Fed chairman Ben Bernanke’s term ends Jan. 31, 2014.

‘‘We believe that Janet Yellen is an extremely effective leader who has demonstrated her capacity to work with the other FRB governors and to bring important perspectives of the American people to her leadership and decisions,’’ the letter states.

The White House on Tuesday declined to comment when asked about the letter.

Signers include Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and Alan Blinder, a former economic adviser to President Clinton and a former Fed vice chairman himself. Among those who have closer ties to Obama are Christina Romer, the former head of the Council of Economic Advisers; Laura Tyson, a former top Clinton adviser and former member of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board; and Alice Rivlin, a former director of Clinton’s budget office and Obama’s appointee to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

The central bank regulates the supply of money and sets interest rates, thereby influencing economic activity, hiring, and inflation. It also plays a crucial role as the country’s lender of last resort when banks can’t get their money elsewhere.

The pro-Yellen letter was organized by Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and Joyce Jacobsen, dean of social sciences at Wesleyan University.

Without mentioning Summers, the letter alludes to his reputation for being prickly. ‘‘There is less and less room in modern public policy making, especially at the FRB, for a single leader to dominate discussion,’’ the letter said.

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