Friday, January 4, 2019
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said today he will not resign if asked to do so by President Donald Trump, and that he is prepared to be patient in deciding when to raise interest rates again.
Both of those messages cheered stock market investors who had been worried about Trump's repeated attacks on his hand-picked choice to lead the nation's central bank and also the Fed's seemingly inexorable march to higher rates.
"There is no pre-set path for policy," Powell said during an appearance at a conference of economists in Atlanta. "With the muted inflation readings we have seen coming in, we will be patient as we watch to see how the economy evolves."
Private economists viewed Powell's comments as a strong signal that the Fed, which in December had projected another two rate hikes in 2019, may end up deciding to pause hikes for several months.
"With Chairman Powell's remarks today, I would say they will do just one hike or maybe no hikes this year," said Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at SS Economics. "Powell is definitely trying to calm the markets."
Wall Street, which opened sharply higher after a report showing 312,000 jobs gained in December, surged even higher during Powell's appearance. The Dow Jones industrial average was up around 700 points near the close.
Powell called the jobs report "very strong" and said he was also encouraged by the rise in the labor force participation rate and gains in wages, which he said "for me at this time does not raise concerns about too high inflation."