The Federal Reserve said it would shorten a late January meeting, indicating that Chairman Alan Greenspan will step down as planned on Jan. 31.

Announcing a change to its tentative meeting schedule for 2006, the Federal Open Market Committee said that it plans to hold its first scheduled meeting of the year on Jan. 31. According to the statement, the committee "had previously planned to meet for two days -- Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. This schedule change avoids a meeting that spans the terms of two chairmen."

The committee, which sets interest rates, said that Greenspan plans to attend the monetary policymaking meeting, in keeping with past practice.

The trio of names most often mentioned as possible successors to Greenspan have all served time on the president's Council of Economic Advisors and have mostly academic backgrounds. They include Ben Bernanke, who took over as chairman of the council this year and is considered the frontrunner for the position; Columbia University professor Glenn Hubbard, President Bush's first council chairman; and Harvard professor Martin Feldstein, who served as the council chairman under President Reagan.

President Bush is expected to announce his selection before Christmas and seek Senate confirmation well before Greenspan's retirement on Jan. 31. Greenspan, 79, has served as Fed chairman during four presidencies in a term spanning 18 years.

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