A number of observers are reading the tea leaves and predicting that the Federal Reserve Board is about to undergo a major shakeup.
Those pushing the radical-change theory point to a convergence of events this year that could lead to a massive turnover at the central bank.
The most likely to leave is Vice Chairman Alan Blinder. Observers said the former Princeton University professor and Business Week columnist, whose term expires in January, will leave the bank if President Clinton doesn't appoint him to replace Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.
"My guess is that he will leave," said Alan Meltzer, a Fed watcher and visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "I think he'll go back to Princeton. Being in academia is not the worst thing that can happen to you."
If Mr. Blinder is committed to this course - and he's not talking - that guarantees at least one opening. Either Mr. Blinder or Mr. Greenspan will be gone.
Most Fed watchers put their money on Mr. Greenspan remaining, noting that the President cannot drop the chairman just as the presidential primary season reaches full force.
"It is clear they (the markets) like Greenspan," Economic Policy Institute economist Dean Baker said. "They know Greenspan. There wouldn't be a collapse, but the markets would take that (his replacement) as bad news."
The administration doesn't take lightly the possibility that the potential uproar in the financial markets could topple President Clinton's reelection bid, Mr. Baker said.
Also, Mr. Greenspan has done a good job, Mr. Meltzer said. "He's produced relatively stable growth with little inflation," he said. "That's what a Fed chairman is supposed to do."
Fed watchers throw a third seat into play. Fed Governor Lawrence B. Lindsey, who has completed more than two year's worth of work on Community Reinvestment Act reform, may be ready to move on.
The speculation has even moved to Governor Edward W. Kelley Jr., who some say is ready to retire from government service.
"I keep hearing that it is definite that Blinder is leaving," said Bert Ely, president of the industry consulting firm Ely & Co. "Supposedly Lindsey isn't happy. Kelley is ready to hang it up." They all have "their own reasons."
Combine these possibilities with John P. LaWare's departure April 30 and Janet Yellen's confirmation late last summer to replace Wayne Angell, and President Clinton has a real chance to take control of the Fed.
Not everyone agrees with that scenario, however.
The skeptics say Mr. Blinder, who hasn't even been at the Fed for a year, isn't ready to leave regardless of who gets the chairman's job. And, Mr. Blinder served on President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers, and thus isn't likely to resign if that would hurt the President politically.
Finally, as the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, Mr. Lindsey has said he isn't planning to leave.
Still, the prospect for a major Fed membership change intrigues some observers.
Eugene Sherman, an industry analyst at M.A. Shapiro & Co. Inc., said any dramatic change could send the markets tumbling.
"The risk is that the Clinton administration would pick people who would tilt toward extending the expansion rather than containing inflation," he said.
Mr. Ely said the President can placate the markets if he keeps the chairman. "The more you have this kind of turnover, the greater the likelihood that he'll have to reappoint Greenspan," he said.