Lyle E. Gramley, a highly influential member of the Federal Reserve Board, has resigned effective Sept. 1 to become chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, the association announced yesterday.
The departure of Gramley, a Federal Reserve governor since 1980, could shift the balance of views among the seven board members in the direction of a somewhat easier monetary policy, according to a number of financial market analysts.
"This could leave [Fed Chairman Paul A.] Volcker with a different board if President Reagan names another dove," said one New York analyst, who said that the president's two other appointments, Vice Chairman Preston Martin and Gov. Martha Seger, are regarded as generally favoring an easier policy than Gramley and some other Fed policy makers.
Reagan will also have another vacancy to fill when the term of Gov. J. Charles Partee, who was appointed by President Ford, expires in January. Reagan also reappointed Volcker as chairman in 1983.
Gramley formerly was research director for the central bank and a member of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Carter administration. With that background and a strongly analytical approach to economic issues, he became, according to some Fed observers, one of the most powerful members of the Fed's policy-making group, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).
During his time at the CEA and the Fed, Gramley became steadily more concerned about keeping inflation under control. Between the time he joined the board and March 1984, Gramley always voted with the FOMC majority. But at an FOMC meeting that month and twice more later in the year, he dissented, always seeking a somewhat more restrictive policy position than the majority favored.
"Gramley has been a hawk in terms of the credibility of the Federal Reserve over the last few years," said an analyst at a major government securities firm. "He has been the source of the intellectual arguments that Volcker and other in the Fed have used. . . . He has been a source of strength in reminding everyone that the job of a central bank is price stability."
Domestic financial markets did not seem to be affected by news of Gramley's departure, but foreign exchange markets were. Traders in those markets attributed a drop of nearly 1 percent in the value of the U.S. dollar against the West German mark to Gramley's decision.
One reason for the effect in the foreign exchange markets is that Gramley has focused some of his recent concerns on the relationship of the large, continuing federal budget deficit and the value of the dollar. He believes, sources close to him said, that with such a stimulative fiscal policy, the central bank has no room to err on the side of ease. If it did, and the dollar declined as a consequence, a new burst of inflation could ensue, he is said to fear.
Following the usual practice for departing policy makers and key staff at the Fed, Gramley will not participate in the July and August meetings of the FOMC, a spokesman said.
Volcker, confirming news accounts of the pending resignation, said in a statement, "Mr. Gramley has served the Federal Reserve through many years with distinction and dedication, culminating in his five years as governor. He is greatly respected throughout the system as a policymaker, economist and administrator. To me, he exemplifies service to his government at its finest, and he has been a source of strength to us all.
"I understand the personal considerations that dictated his resignation, but we will all miss his participation in the future," Volcker said.
A Federal Reserve spokesman declined to elaborate on the "personal considerations," and Gramley was not available for comment. There was speculation that the considerations may have been financial, since the pay of a Fed governor is $73,600.
Warren Lasko, executive vice president of the MBA, said, "Gramley's outstanding reputation and skills as an economic forecaster will be invaluable to the real estate finance and entire banking industry." He replaces Thomas Harder, who left to join the Federal National Mortgage Association, an association spokeswoman said.
Gramley, 58, was graduated from Beloit College and holds master's and PhD degrees in economics from Indiana University. He worked as a financial economist at the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank from 1955 to 1962, when he became an associate professor of economics at the University of Maryland. In 1964, he became a staff economist at the Federal Reserve Board and later was director of its division of research and statistics.