(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 26, 2018 Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during a press conference in Washington, DC. – Is inflation about to rise? Are interest rates too high? Or too low? Are economic risks lurking? These are the fears that keep Powell from getting a good night’s sleep. While he was generally upbeat about the US economy, predicting that the good news could continue “effectively indefinitely,” when asked on October 3, 2018, what keeps him up at night, Powell said, “Basically everything.” (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)
President Donald Trump renewed his attacks on the US central bank on Thursday, saying it was “too aggressive” in raising interest rates.
“I think they’re making a big mistake,” Trump said during a broadcast of Fox & Friends.
While he acknowledged that higher rates helped savers, he criticized the Federal Reserve’s tactics.
“They’re being too aggressive.”
The comments followed his unprecedented criticism late Thursday, when he said the Fed had “gone crazy,” and blamed the interest rate increases for the stock selloff, which caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average to lose more than 800 points, in its worst tumble since February.
The rout caused a domino effect worldwide, with losses spreading to Asia and Europe as investors remained concerned about rising rates — which would send more buyers out of equities and into bonds — as well as the impact of Trump’s trade conflict with China on corporate profits.
Trump has repeatedly touted the spate of Wall Street records as proof of the success of his economic program, including his confrontational trade strategy, and criticized the Fed for raising the benchmark interest rate — three times this year — saying it would undermines his efforts.
In fact it is largely his policies that are behind the changes: tax cuts and increased government spending are expected to juice the economy, adding to the Fed’s justification to raise interest rates.
Meanwhile, trade conflicts raise costs for companies, which could hit the bottom line in quarterly earnings — something analysts said helped prompt Wednesday’s sell-off.
‘Do the right thing’
While Trump said rising rates after years near zero are “good for people with money in the bank and now they can get interest on their money for first time in a long time,” he insisted Thursday Fed was “making a mistake.”
The attacks on the Fed are another example of Trump breaking with recent norms. The Fed is an independent body and presidents in recent decades have avoided commenting publicly on its actions.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell, whom Trump named to lead the central bank, has repeatedly brushed off the comments saying officials do not pay attention to politics.
“This is just who we are and I think who we will always be, which is, we’re a group who — we’re quite removed from the political process,” Powell said in a recent interview.
“And we just try to do the right thing for the medium and longer term for the country.”
International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde also defended the Fed on Thursday.
Raising interest rates was justified “for those economies that are showing much improved growth, inflation that is picking up… unemployment that is extremely low,” Lagarde told a press briefing in Bali, Indonesia where the IMF is holding its annual meeting.