WASHINGTON - Faced with bitter opposition, former US treasury secretary Larry Summers abruptly withdrew from the race to lead the Federal Reserve, potentially opening the door for the bank's first woman chair.
Sunday's surprise announcement came after weeks of speculation and no little ire over his bid to succeed Ben Bernanke, but his candidacy was ultimately felled by a lack of support from key senators.
President Barack Obama confirmed he had accepted Summers's decision during a telephone call, in a move that boosts the chances of Janet Yellen, the current deputy chair of the Fed, taking over at the US central bank.
Summers's run for the pivotal economic post had received backing from the White House, but in other quarters his efforts were undermined by fierce criticism of his record as head of the Treasury during Bill Clinton's presidency.
His opposition to the regulation of derivatives - the often complex financial products blamed in part for triggering the 2008 global economic crisis - and his work on Wall Street had attracted particularly heated scrutiny.
In stepping aside, Summers issued a letter stating that his withdrawal came at "a complex moment in our national life," noting he had "reluctantly concluded" that his route to securing the job was not tenable.
"Any possible confirmation process for me would be acrimonious and would not serve the interests of the Federal Reserve, the administration, or ultimately, the interests of the nation's ongoing economic recovery," Summers said.
The 58-year-old economist, a Harvard professor and former president of the university, worked for Clinton at the Treasury Department between 1999 and 2001, and served as Obama's chief economic adviser at the White House in 2009 and 2010.