The White House plans to nominate economist Martin N. Baily to succeed Janet L. Yellen as head of the Clinton administration's Council of Economic Advisers, aides said yesterday.

Baily, 54, is a well-regarded economist who served on the three-member council in 1994-96, during President Clinton's first term. After his resignation in 1996, he became a partner in the Washington office of McKinsey & Co., the management consulting firm. Baily was en route to Brazil yesterday and unavailable for comment, according to an assistant.

While White House aides said the choice was not final, they said the job was virtually certain to be Baily's.

Yellen is leaving because she did not want to have to commute across the country to be with her husband in California, a senior administration official said.

President Clinton said yesterday he was "sorry" to learn of Yellen's decision to resign and added that "her extraordinary intellect and keen grasp of domestic and international economics have contributed enormously to the formulation of my administration's policies."

A senior aide said the White House had tried to persuade Yellen to stay on in Washington to become vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. That job opened up with the recent resignation announcement of another senior Clinton economic appointee, Alice M. Rivlin.

Baily is a native of Britain who came to the United States in 1968 to attend graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has worked at the Brookings Institution and taught at the University of Maryland. Longtime friend Alan Blinder, a Princeton economist who preceded Baily at the CEA, said Baily's work has focused on productivity issues.

The CEA's chief job is to provide the president with sophisticated economic analysis for use in making policy decisions. Its influence has waxed and waned over the years, depending on issues, the relationship the CEA chairman has with the president and the clout of other economic players in the administration. The Clinton CEA has often been overshadowed by heavyweight advisers at the Office of Management and Budget, the Treasury Department, and the National Economic Council.

Yellen's departure will leave the CEA with two vacancies and just a single confirmed member, Rebecca Blank. The nominations of both Baily and Harvard professor Robert Z. Lawrence, nominated selected in April to fill the other CEA post, are subject to Senate confirmation. must be confirmed by the Senate Banking Committee and the full Senate.