President Donald Trump said the Federal Reserve is moving too fast with interest-rate increases and dismissed concerns about inflation, exte- nding his run of criticism that central bankers have largely disregarded as they push ahead with higher borrowing costs. “I don’t like it,” Trump said at the White House, referring to the Fed’s rate hikes, the most recent of which was September 26. “I think we don’t have to go as fast.” “I like low interest rates,” Trump said.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is aiming to extend the second-longest US economic expansion on record by moving interest rates up just quickly enough to prevent overheating, but not so rapidly that the central bank chokes off growth. Powell said last week he expects to stick with the current path of gradual interest-rate hikes while monitoring risks in the economy.
Trump said that the economy is enjoying “record-setting” numbers and “I don’t want to slow it down even a little bit, especially when we don’t have the problem of inflation.” “You don’t see that inflation coming back. Now at some point” inflation will come back, he said. “I just don’t think it’s necessary to go as fast.”
The central bank’s preferred measure of inflation is roughly at policy makers’ 2 percent objective, and Powell said last week that “the outlook of forecasters inside and outside the Fed is for more of the same.”
Even so, one reason why the Fed has been raising interest rates even with little sign of an inflation breakout is because the unemployment rate, which fell to 3.7 percent in September, is at a level that many officials expect will cause wage and price gains to accelerate over time.
“Our course is clear: Resolutely conduct policy consistent with the FOMC’s symmetric 2 percent inflation objective, and stand ready to act with authority if expectations drift materially up or down,” Powell said last week, referring to the policy-making Federal Open Market Committee.
Trump indicated he had not spoken with Powell. “I like to stay uninvolved,” Trump said. Earlier, White House economist Kevin Hassett said the administration respects the Fed’s independence and pointed to Trump’s nominees to the central bank as evidence of its non-partisan approach to the setting of monetary policy.
Trump’s comments echo his previous criticisms of recent months, which broke more than two decades of White House tradition of avoiding comments on monetary policy out of respect for independence of the US central bank. After the central bank announced its third increase of the year in September — a quarter-point boost that raised the benchmark federal funds rate to a target range of 2 percent to 2.25 percent — Trump said he was “not happy” about it.
‘Fed hikes help curb financial risk-taking’
US interest-rate increases will help reduce risk-taking in financial markets, Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John Williams said.
“The primary driver of us raising interest rates is just the fact that the US economy is doing so well in terms of our goals,” Williams said on Wednesday in a reply to questions after a speech in Bali, where the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank are taking place. “But I would also add that the normalization of monetary policy in terms of interest rates does have an added benefit in terms of financial risks.”
“A very-low interest-rate environment for a long time does, at least in some dimension, probably add to financial risks, or risk-taking, reach for yield, things like that,” he said. “Normalisation of the monetary policy, I think, has the added benefit of reducing somewhat, on the margin, some of the risk of imbalances in financial markets.” The Fed’s interest-rate setting committee voted on September 26 to raise borrowing costs for an eighth time in three years and projected gradual hikes through 2020.