WASHINGTON -- A majority of economists and investors expect the Federal Reserve to begin scaling back a key stimulus program next week, according to two polls.
Two-thirds of economists polled by the Wall Street Journal said they expected the policymaking Federal Open Market Committee to announce a decision on Wednesday to start tapering the central bank's $85 billion in monthly bond purchases.
And 76% of the 47 economists surveyed said the Fed should make the move then, the poll found.
Many analysts have pointed to September because Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is scheduled to hold his quarterly news conference after the meeting and would be able to explain the move.
The next most likely time for a Fed pullback would be at its December meeting, and 22% of economists in the poll said that was when central bank policymakers would take action. Bernanke is scheduled to hold his last news conference of the year after that meeting.
A poll from Potomac Research Group found that 61% of investors surveyed expected the Fed to begin curtailing the bond purchases next week. The poll also found that 65.9% of respondents said they believed the bond-buying had helped the U.S. economy, and that 92.7% said it had helped boost the stock market.
But a strong majority -- 63.4% -- said the program had outlived its usefulness.
Looking to the Fed's future, the Journal poll said 73% of economists surveyed expect President Obama to nominate former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers to replace Bernanke as Fed chairman. Just 22% expected Obama to choose the other leading candidate, Fed Vice Chair Janet L. Yellen.
But when asked which of those two should be chosen, 61% said Yellen and just 39% said Summers.