Fed watchers are betting that a bank economist will be selected to succeed Lee Hoskins as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

The reasoning? Mr. Hoskins and his predecessor, Karen N. Horn, both came from the ranks of bank economists and proved forceful, effective chief executives.

Among those seen as leading candidates:

* Sung Won Sohn, 47, chief economist of Norwest Corp. in Minneapolis.

* Jerry Jordan, 50, chief economist of First Interstate Bancorp, Los Angeles.

* Gail Fosler, 44, chief economist of the Conference Board in New York. She was an economist with the banking unit of Manufacturers Hanover Corp. from 1978 to 1980.

Mr. Jordan declined to comment, and the others could not be reached. A decision is expected in the first quarter of 1992.

A Noted Monetary Hawk

Mr. Hoskins, who resigned Nov. 15, was a controversial and outspoken hawk on monetary policy. He became one of the most influential members of the policymaking Federal Open Market Committee during his four years at the helm of the Cleveland Fed. He is now vice chairman of Huntington Bancshares Inc. and chief executive of its lead bank in Columbus, Ohio.

The new president will immediately have a powerful voice in monetary policy because the Cleveland Fed rotates into a voting seat on the key committee in 1992.

"Given what they're used to with Lee, it's clear they are going to look for somebody who can give them a strong voice and presence on the FOMC," said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist of PNC Financial Corp., Pittsburgh.

The Same Headhunter

The Cleveland Fed's board appointed a four-man search committee in October, headed by the board's vice chairman, A. William Reynolds, chairman and CEO of GenCorp., Fairlawn, Ohio.

The panel has retained the same executive headhunter who found Mr. Hoskins. The recruiter, David Lowderback, works for the executive search firm A.T. Cleary. He was with Korn-Ferry International when he recruited Mr. Hoskins.

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