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The White House has begun preparing a list of possible candidates to replace Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chief given his possible exit when his current term concludes in January 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

According to the financial daily, citing some of those involved in the process, the people tasked with compiling the list of candidates include Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and a small group of White House officials.

Among the names being considered for the list are current Fed vice chairman Janet Yellen and former Clinton administration Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who is also a former advisor to President Barack Obama.

Other possible candidates are former Fed vice chairmen Alan Blinder and Roger Ferguson.

Bernanke, who was first nominated by President George W. Bush, has declined to speak about his future, but in recent months rumors have grown regarding his possible intention to step down from the post he has held since 2006.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, where the hearings on a new candidate to head the Fed will be held, recently said that he would be "very surprised" if Bernanke stays in the post.

In addition, Obama himself, who has praised Bernanke's work leading the Fed after the start of the financial crisis in 2008, has suggested that the financial chief had perhaps been in the post longer than he had intended.

White House officials are said to have begun talking with members of the Senate to lay the groundwork for the hearings, in case Bernanke decides to step down, the financial daily reported.

Bernanke's hypothetical exit could come at an especially delicate time for the U.S. central bank, given that it is immersed in an aggressive policy of monetary stimulus. Recently, there have been indications that the policy might be moderated if the U.S. economic recovery continues.

In his most recent appearance before the press last week, Bernanke said that the ongoing Fed program of buying $85 billion in U.S. bonds each month might be progressively scaled back, provided that the economic news remains good. EFE