With the economy humming like a well-oiled machine and the stock market soaring, some Wall Streeters think Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan can best help by keeping a low profile.
The central banker's highly publicized reference to "irrational exuberance" in December 1996 has obviously not been forgotten, nor have his subsequent comments concerning the market gone unnoticed.
"There is an enormous amount of power in the equity market," said Edward Yardeni, chief economist at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell. "It's really not his place to judge whether it is overvalued.'
Others were more blunt. "He should keep his day job" and forgo observations about the health of the stock market, asserted Philip J. Orlando, chief investment officer at Value Line Asset Management.
Their remarks last week at the New York Society of Security Analysts' quarterly market forecast meeting made their way to Washington. Fed officials responded that Mr. Greenspan does not plan to change his ways.
"It's his job. Why should he hold back from saying things," said Fed spokesman Joseph R. Coyne.
He said the Fed's primary mission includes "maintaining the stability of the financial system and containing systematic risk that may arise in financial markets."
Mr. Coyne described the Fed and its chairman's relationship with Wall Street as "very good. They have a lot of confidence in him."
Some on Wall Street remain ruffled by Mr. Greenspan's statements about the bull market, notably his rhetorical question about "irrational exuberance," which triggered a selling wave.
The market's quick rebound and the subsequent 3,000-point climb in the Dow Jones industrial average demonstrate that Mr. Greenspan's assessment was way off base, said one prominent Wall Street veteran.
"The market called his bluff," said Stephen S. Roach, managing director for economic analysis at Morgan Stanley & Co.
Mr. Greenspan "learned you don't talk without acting," Mr. Roach said.
Wall Street and the Fed have always had an arms-length relationship.
Recently that has been magnified a bit by Street talk of a new paradigm for the economy and markets, while the Fed chief has reiterated old truths.
The issue has been sharpened by wider ownership of stocks, leading small investors to pay closer attention to issues affecting the market.
Members of Congress have been asked by constituents, "Who's this Alan Greenspan, and why am I losing so much money?" said Mark L. Melcher, managing director for Washington research at Prudential Securities.
The effect is to "put a muzzle on Alan Greenspan," Mr. Melcher said. "Washington will never again bash the bond and equity markets unintentionally."
Wall Streeters acknowledge that the Fed can play a crucial role in their well-being and that of the broader economy.
"It's at times of transition in the economy that he plays a pivotal part," said Joseph V. Battipaglia, executive vice president at Gruntal & Co.
Howeverm "he's such a gradualist," raising or lowering interest rates by incremental amounts, Mr. Battipaglia said. "If he's going to act, go at least a point in either direction, let the market react, and move on."