Yellen to be no show at this year's Jackson Hole central bank conference

WASHINGTON – It turns out that being the first woman to head the Federal Reserve is not the only tradition Janet Yellen is breaking. The Fed said Tuesday that she plans on skipping this year’s gathering of the world’s central bankers at Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

In a statement, the Fed said Yellen will participate in the August policy symposium from time to time in future years as part her public speaking schedule. It did not say, however, why she was skipping it this year.

This year’s conference is scheduled to be held three weeks before the Fed’s September meeting, a date which many private economists have pegged as the most likely time for the central bank to start raising a key interest rate.

The faithful attendance of Yellen’s three predecessors — Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke — made the conference sponsored by the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank a widely sought invitation by central bankers from around the globe. Kansas City Fed officials said they would have no comment on Yellen’s decision.

The Fed statement said that Yellen seeks to participate in a “public speaking schedule that includes a wide variety of venues and events.”

Since taking over as Fed chair last year, Yellen has sought to broaden the Fed’s outreach beyond the economists and banking executives who make up many Fed audiences. She has delivered speeches to community development organizations and toured employment centres to highlight efforts to help the millions of people who lost jobs during the Great Recession.

Greenspan never missed a Jackson Hole conference during his nearly two decades as Fed chairman and Bernanke attended all but one of the eight conferences held while he was chairman.

Kansas City Fed officials moved the conference to Jackson Hole in 1982 in a successful effort to get Volcker, an ardent fly-fisherman, to attend and thus attract other central bank officials. Grand Teton National Park, where the conference is held, is famous for its trout streams.