Today, the Federal Reserve begins its two-day long Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting to discuss and determine the direction of monetary policy.
Without question, this is the most important event of the week, and some would argue that it is the most important event of the year.
What the Fed says tomorrow has the potential to move the global financial markets in a big way.
As such, investors and traders will do whatever they can to get ahead of the curve.
One way they do this is by paying close attention to the “Fed-watchers.” And a few Fed-watchers in financial journalism have earned reputations for being so close to the Fed that they are seen as implied mouth pieces to leaks.
Like this crop of the biggest Federal Reserve journalists, who can actually move markets with the slightest hint that the Fed may — or may not — act on its plan to slow down its quantitative easing program.
Rarely do beat reporters have such a profound economic impact on the subject they cover. So who exactly are the deeply-sourced Fed reporters capable of sending our fickle markets into a tizzy with their every word?
We’ve compiled a list of the top 6 financial journalists covering the Fed.
6) Robin Harding, Financial Times
Harding, the FT’s Fed-watcher, sent stocks plummeting when his story “Fed likely to signal tapering move” hit the web Monday. But Harding balked, tweeting, “But people need to chill out. The Fed does not leak anything to any journalist to steer markets – especially during blackout.”
Harding previously worked as a Tokyo correspondent for the FT before attaining the near-singular ability to move the stock market with his reporting.
Follow him on Twitter: @RobinBHarding
5) Neil Irwin: Washington Post
Neil Irwin as a WaPo columnist and frequent voice on Wonkblog, Ezra Klein’s popular spot for policy analysis. He also recently authored a book about how central banks tried to combat the financial crisis. From 2007-2012, Irwin covered the Fed for WaPo, and has reported on economics and other topics for the paper since 2000.
Irwin is more columnist than he is reporter now. So while he’s not generating scoops, his analysis — which takes a “let’s step back and really think about this” approach — is a must-read if you’re a Fed watcher.
Follow him on Twitter: @Neil_Irwin
4) Binyamin Appelbaum: The New York Times
Appelbaum is a Washington-based reporter covering the Fed for The New York Times. He has worked as a reporter for the Florida Times Union, The Boston Globe, The Charlotte Observer, and The Washington Post.
He is a constant presence at Fed press conferences, once pushing Ben Bernanke on whether his current views as chairman conflict with his scholarly work from his time as an academic, specifically concerning Japan.
Among his other scoops, at WaPo Appelbaum broke the news that the administration had plans for a financial watchdog that would later become the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This solidified Applebaum as a reporter with some high-level sources.
Follow him on Twitter: @BCApplebaum
3) Steve Liesman: CNBC
Squawk-Boxer Steve Liesman is CNBC’s senior economics reporter. He made his bones at the Wall Street Journal, covering everything from energy to international economics. He also served as the Journal’s Moscow bureau chief. His work on the crash of the Russian financial markets won his reporting team a Pulitzer. Liesman worked at The Moscow Times, an English language newsdaily after beginning his career as a business reporter in Florida.
Liesman seems to always have the inside track when it comes to the Fed. In April, when Fed minutes appeared online five hours earlier than usual, Liesman first reported it was because the minutes had been leaked to lobbyists the day before. He also reported in May that the Fed and US Treasury were investigating whether Bloomberg journalists were tracking government officials’ terminal use.
Follow him on Twitter: @steveliesman
2) Greg Ip, The Economist
Ip is the U.S. economics editor for The Economist, covering markets and fiscal policy. He joined the magazine in 2008 from the Wall Street Journal. He is also the author of “The Little Book of Economics: How the Economy Works in the Real World,” an explainer for the common man.
Ip is a shrewd Fed thinker, and last year asked Chairman Bernanke the tough question: “Economists have long believed that central banks cannot affect the unemployment rate in the long run. That’s one reason you’ve seen a move towards central banks being given mandates for low inflation only. Can you explain if the Fed, by tying its monetary policy so explicitly to an unemployment threshold, whether that is consistent or inconsistent with that longstanding view? And, if it’s consistent, how is this superior to simply having a threshold for inflation only? And would the approach that you’re now taking be possible if the Fed had only a mandate for low inflation?”
In a recent interview with CNBC, Ip indicated people should look to the Fed’s forecast of the path of the economy in Wednesday’s announcement, and Fed watchers listened. Ip was the predecessor of now legendary Fed reporter Jon Hilsenrath.
So, when Ip talks about the Fed, the market moves.
Follow on him on Twitter: @greg_ip
1) Jon Hilsenrath: The Wall Street Journal
Hilsenwrath, Hilsenrally, Fedwire: The man’s nicknames derive from which way he steered the market that day. The Journal’s Fed reporter recently blogged that he expected the Fed to take a more dovish tone this week, his one cryptic sentence helping gold, stocks, and bonds enjoy a fervent Hilsenrally as markets closed.
Hilsenrath, the Journal’s D.C. correspondent, has been working at the paper since 1997 and contributed to their Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the Sept. 11th attacks. A mainstay on CNBC, Hilsy reportedly has better access to Ben Bernanke than anyone, so much so that FT Alphaville calls him Fedwire, the news service of the Federal Reserve.
Hilsenrath is not on Twitter. But it pays to keep an eye on the #Hilsenrath hashtag.
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