Ben Bernanke is yet to take the helm of the Federal Reserve from outgoing Chairman Alan Greenspan, but money managers are already scrutinizing the course he might chart for 2006.

"There could be a pause in the market when Bernanke comes in, just to wait and see," said Robert Turner, chief investment officer with Turner Investment Partners, in a report from Reuters.

Others agree.

"The wild card for 2006 is Bernanke," said investing giant Mario Gabelli, chairman of GAMCO Investors in Rye , NY .

If confirmed on Feb. 1 as expected, Bernanke would replace Greenspan, who has been head of the Fed for 18 years. While the market usually reacts to major changes of power to some degree anyway, this change is significant because it coincides with signs of a weakening real estate market and concern that consumer sectors may cool correspondingly.

So far, investors remain relatively unshaken, said Turner. The credit, in part, goes to the Fed, which last week raised short-term interest rates to 4.25%. It marked the 13th increase since mid-2004 and many economists expect up to three more hikes.

"The Fed will go to 5% on fed funds rate," said Bob Morris, chief investment officer at Lord Abbett, in Jersey City , N.J. "Bernanke is an inflation targeter and we're at the high end of his comfort zone."

"The risk is that they will overcompensate for inflation and trigger a slowdown. But I don't yet think that's likely," said Ron Muhlencamp, of the Pittsburgh-based Muhlenkamp Fund.

Prior to becoming a governor of the Federal Reserve in 2002, Bernanke was an economics professor economics at Princeton University . Some managers suggested that Bernanke's academic background may influence him to be more conservative in his policy than his aggressive predecessor and to focus less on staving inflation.

"I think he has a tough job," said Brett Gallagher, head of U.S. equities at Swiss wealth manager, Julius Baer Investment Management. "There are many imbalances that Greenspan has built up that have to been addressed somewhere. Bernanke is primarily an academic, primarily theoretical. Theorists are willing to act and wait for the reaction.

Some fund managers worry that Bernanke will not focus as much as Greenspan on ebbing inflation.

"Bernanke can not allow an inverted yield curve to last long," said Gabelli. "I think he blinks - but the first time he's in office he has to play hardball."

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