US Fed’s Powell defends policy of gradual hikes in interest rate

Published August 27, 2018, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.(Bloomberg)
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.(Bloomberg)

JACKSON HOLE, Wyoming (Reuters) – Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Friday (August 24) defended the US central bank’s push to raise interest rates as healthy for the economy and signaled more hikes were coming despite President Donald Trump’s criticism of higher borrowing costs.

The Fed, which began to tighten monetary policy in 2015, has raised rates twice this year and is widely expected to do so again next month and in December.

Speaking at a research symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Powell said he wanted to “explain today why my colleagues and I believe that this gradual process … remains appropriate.”

“The economy is strong. Inflation is near our 2 percent objective, and most people who want a job are finding one … If the strong growth in income and jobs continues, further gradual increases in the target range for the federal funds rate will likely be appropriate,” he said.

Powell made no mention of Trump’s criticism of the Fed’s monetary policy. In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Trump said he was “not thrilled” with Powell’s Fed for raising rates and said the central bank should do more to help boost the economy.

In his speech, Powell simply made the case that gradual rate hikes are the best way to protect the U.S. economic recovery and keep job growth as strong as possible and inflation under control.

The benchmark S&P 500 index and the Nasdaq Composite hit all-time highs after Powell’s speech while the dollar weakened against a basket of currencies. Traders of interest rate futures kept their bets on rate hikes in both September and December.

The Kansas City Fed’s annual conference here in Grand Teton National Park is among the central bank’s higher profile annual events, drawing international media attention and an audience including representatives of other nations’ central banks.

Trump is “fueling the economy with fiscal stimulus and then asking that you don’t tighten interest rates, but the Fed is normalizing monetary policy, not really tightening – it’s accompanying the recovery and lifting rates up to the point where they are neutral,” Laurence Boone, the chief economist of the OECD, said on the sidelines of the conference.

“Financial conditions are very good, and (Powell) is tightening in line with those trends,” Boone said.

Antoinette Schoar, an economist who teaches at the MIT Sloan School of Management, said the Fed should remain “above the fray.” “Fed policy should not have anything to do with politics,” said Schoar, who is also attending the Jackson Hole conference.