8/23/2019 1:38:00 PM Powell speech: Some see sign of rate cuts
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell signaled today that the Fed stands ready to cut interest rates further if the economy needs it but wasn’t clear about when or by how much.
Some economists saw Powell’s speech as setting the stage for further interest rate cuts this year. A quarter-point rate cut reduction in September is considered all but certain. Some think the Fed will cut rates again in December.
Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics notes that Powell “warned that the downside risks have intensified in the three weeks since the July (Fed) meeting.”
Brian Bethune, economics lecturer at Tufts University, says, “We are looking for at least one rate cut in September, and the possibility of an additional rate cut in the fall is greater than 50%.”
Powell had barely finished speaking to central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, before President Donald Trump escalated his attacks on the Fed, which he has repeatedly accused of keeping rates too high.
“As usual, the Fed did NOTHING!” Trump tweeted. “It is incredible that they can ‘speak’ without knowing or asking what I am doing, which will be announced shortly. We have a very strong dollar and a very weak Fed. I will work “brilliantly” with both, and the U.S. will do great.”
“My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powel (sic) or Chairman Xi?,” the president added, referring to China’s leader.
On a day of fast-moving events in the financial world, Powell’s speech followed China’s announcement earlier Friday that it will impose new tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. products in retaliation for Trump’s latest planned tariff increases
China will also raise import taxes on U.S.-made autos and auto parts. Beijing’s actions deepened a trade conflict that threatens to tip a weakening global economy into recession.
China’s move also ignited a separate attack by Trump on Twitter against Beijing:
“Our Country has lost, stupidly, Trillions of Dollars with China over many years. They have stolen our Intellectual Property at a rate of Hundreds of Billions of Dollars a year, & they want to continue. I won’t let that happen!”
In his speech, Powell said Trump’s trade wars have complicated the Fed’s ability to set interest rates and have contributed to a global economic slowdown.
The Fed cut rates last month for the first time in a decade, and financial markets have baked in the likelihood of more rate cuts this year.
Comments Thursday from Fed officials gathering in Jackson Hole reflected the committee’s sharp divisions, including some reluctance to cut rates at least until the economic picture changes.
“I think we should stay here for a while and see how things play out,” said Patrick Harker, the president of the Fed’s Philadelphia regional bank.
Esther George, president of the Fed’s Kansas City regional bank and one of the dissenting votes in July, said, “While I see downside risk, I wasn’t ready to act on that relative to the performance of the economy.”
George said she saw some areas of strength, including very low unemployment and inflation now closer to the Fed’s target level. She said her decision on a possible future rate cut would depend on forthcoming data releases.
Robert Kaplan, president of the Fed’s Dallas branch indicated that he might be prepared to support further rate cuts.