Powell Pledges To "Act As Appropriate" But Continues To Draw Trump’s Ire
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell delivered his highly anticipated speech at the Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium on Friday, reiterating the Fed will “act as appropriate” to sustain the U.S. economic expansion.
Powell described the three weeks since the Fed decided to lower interest rates by 25 basis points at its July meeting as “eventful.”
The Fed Chief cited President Donald Trump’s announcement of new tariffs on Chinese imports as well as further signs of a global economic slowdown, notably in Germany and China.
Powell also pointed to several geopolitical events, including the growing possibility of a hard Brexit, rising tensions in Hong Kong, and the dissolution of the Italian government.
As a result of the subsequent uncertainty, Powell said the Fed is “carefully watching developments as we assess their implications for the U.S. outlook and the path of monetary policy.”
Paul Ashworth, Chief U.S. Economist at Capital Economics, said Powell’s comment sounds “analogous to the ‘closely monitor’ language the Fed last used in the May FOMC statement to indicate a rate cut was coming soon.”
“In contrast, in the July statement the FOMC only pledged to ‘continue to monitor’ the incoming data which, coupled with Powell’s post-meeting press conference, gave the impression that the Fed wasn’t in a rush to cut rates again,” Ashworth said.
Ashworth subsequently believes that Powell’s closely watched speech appears to open the door to another rate cut at the Fed’s September meeting.
Meanwhile, Trump seemed less impressed by the Fed Chairman’s remarks, going so far as to question if Powell is a “bigger enemy” than Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“As usual, the Fed did NOTHING! It is incredible that they can ‘speak’ without knowing or asking what I am doing, which will be announced shortly,” Trump tweeted.
He added, “We have a very strong dollar and a very weak Fed. I will work ‘brilliantly’ with both, and the U.S. will do great.”
While Powell is a Trump appointee, the president has repeatedly lashed out at the Fed for failing to heed his calls for dramatically lower interest rates.
Powell noted in his remarks that the trade policy uncertainty created by Trump has presented the Fed with a new challenge.
“In principle, anything that affects the outlook for employment and inflation could also affect the appropriate stance of monetary policy, and that could include uncertainty about trade policy,” Powell said. “There are, however, no recent precedents to guide any policy response to the current situation.”
He added, “Moreover, while monetary policy is a powerful tool that works to support consumer spending, business investment, and public confidence, it cannot provide a settled rulebook for international trade.”
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