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Even Without Bernanke, Jackson Hole's A Hot Ticket

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. (AP) â¿¿ Ben Bernanke is a no-show. No matter. Despite the absence of the Federal Reserve chairman, this year's annual economic conference in Jackson Hole has once again proved a destination of choice for central bankers.

In international banking circles, the Jackson Hole gathering, held each August in a rustic lodge in Grand Teton National Park, is akin to Academy Awards night. If you're invited, the message is clear: You're someone who matters.

This is the first year in more than two decades that a Fed chief hasn't given the keynote speech to open the two-day conference, which ended Saturday. News last spring that Bernanke would skip this year's conference was taken as a signal that he'll leave the Fed when his term ends in January.

With speculation intensifying over his successor, a spotlight has fallen on Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen, one of two leading contenders. Yellen is here. Her chief rival, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, is not.

Yellen is among 10 members of the 19-member Federal Open Market Committee in attendance. The FOMC comprises the Fed board members and regional bank presidents who set the central bank's interest-rate policies.

Central bankers from every major economy, from Germany and Britain to Japan and China, are here. So are those of smaller nations from Albania to Malta.

Among the 130 guests are many scholars of economic policy. They're joined by top economists from financial firms â¿¿ at least those who managed to score an invite.

Attendees spend hours in a windowless conference room hearing and discussing presentations of academic research. They do get afternoons off â¿¿ to hike, go rafting or take bus tours. But even against the backdrop of majestic mountain grandeur, many of the Ph.D. scholars have been known to go right on debating economics through the day.

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