Fed Risks More Trump Anger With Message That Rates Are on Hold
Bloomberg – Federal Reserve policy makers are satisfied with the stance of monetary policy even if President Donald Trump isn’t.
In a series of appearances last week, central bank officials hammered home the message that policy is on hold after three cuts in interest rates this year.
“We have a favorable outlook for the economy,” Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida said Friday in a Bloomberg Television interview. “We think the economy is in a good place, we think monetary policy is in a good place.”
Faced with an election a year from now, Trump certainly wouldn’t disagree with the former assessment.
He hailed “a blowout jobs number” after news that payrolls grew by a bigger-than-expected 128,000 in October in spite of the since-ended General Motors Co. strike.
But that doesn’t mean that he’s happy with the job being done by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and his colleagues.
“People are VERY disappointed in Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve,” Trump tweeted Thursday, the day after the central bank lowered rates by a quarter percentage point. “The Fed has called it wrong from the beginning, too fast, too slow.”
Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow was more restrained in a Bloomberg Television interview on Friday.
“Monetary policy fortunately has finally turned around,” said Kudlow, who is director of the White House’s National Economic Council. “We’ve gone from extreme tightness to a somewhat more accommodative position.”
After raising rates four times in 2018, the Fed has reduced them this year to shelter the economy from slowing growth overseas and uncertainties stemming from Trump’s trade policies, particularly with regard to China.
Fed Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles said Friday that the current stance of monetary policy was “likely to remain appropriate” as long as the economy grows moderately, the jobs market stays strong and inflation is near the Fed’s 2% goal.
Economists at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Deutsche Bank AG were among those to declare last week that the Fed is now on hold.
But moderate growth — generally seen by economists as equivalent to about 2% — might not be enough for a president who has promised increases of 3% or more.
After heating up last year in response to Trump’s tax cuts, the economy has cooled in 2019 as trade tensions and sluggish global growth have dampened business confidence.
Since Trump took office in January 2017, gross domestic product has risen at an average annual clip of 2.6%, a bit faster than the 2.4% rate in President Barack Obama’s second term.
Speaking Friday in Washington, San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly affirmed the central bank’s independence. “We don’t think about politics,” she told students at Howard University.
Morgan Stanley Chief U.S. Economist Ellen Zentner defended the central bank against Trump’s attacks.
“If their job is to extend the expansion for as long as possible, it also includes not allowing the economy to overheat, which can stop expansions short,” she told Bloomberg Television.
Fed policy makers generally played up the performance of the world’s largest economy and the jobs market in separate appearances last week.
“The economy is strong,” New York Fed President John Williams declared at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
He said he sees “people who’ve been out of the labor force for maybe years, or much of their life, now getting job training, getting back into the labor force.”
Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan agreed with that upbeat assessment, telling reporters in Houston that the U.S. was “at or past full employment.”
At 3.6% in October, the jobless rate is hovering near a 50-year low and is below the 4.2% rate that Fed officials reckon is sustainable in the long-run, according to the median projection of policy makers released in September.
Kaplan said the Fed had acted in “a modest, restrained and limited way” to support the economy by cutting rates this year.
“We want to give it some time to work through the economy and to see how events unfold,” he said, adding, “I’d want to be patient here, at this point.”
That approach isn’t seconded by the president, as his tweet last week attacking the Fed made clear.