AP

Powell hints Fed will cut rates if needed over trade wars

Jun 5, 2019, 5:39 AM | Updated: 5:41 am
trade...
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell speaks at a conference involving its review of its interest-rate policy strategy and communications, Tuesday, June 4, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Chairman Jerome Powell said Tuesday that the Federal Reserve is prepared to respond if it decides the Trump administration’s trade conflicts are threatening the U.S. economy. Investors read his remarks as a signal that the Fed will likely cut interest rates later this year.

Powell’s remarks helped drive up stock prices, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average ending the day up more than 500 points, or 2%.

Speaking at a Fed conference in Chicago, Powell said, “We are closely monitoring the implications of these developments for the U.S. economic outlook and, as always, we will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion.”

Powell didn’t explicitly say what the Fed would do. But expectations are rising that the Fed will cut rates at least once and possibly two or more times before year’s end, in part because of the consequences of the trade war. There is concern that the U.S. expansion, which next month will become the longest on record, could face growing risks of a recession as retaliatory tariffs weaken U.S. exports.

Investors in the futures market are pricing in a 59% chance of a Fed rate cut by July.

Also Tuesday, Vice Chairman Richard Clarida declined to speculate on the possibility of a Fed rate cut that soon but said in an interview with CNBC, “We will put in policies that need to be in place” to sustain the economic expansion.

James Bullard, head of the Fed’s St. Louis bank, had said on Monday that a Fed rate cut “may be warranted soon,” in part because potential risks from trade uncertainties.

Trump has imposed far-reaching tariffs on imports on China, which has retaliated with tariffs of its own on U.S. exports. He has also threatened to impose an escalating series of tariffs against Mexico unless it stops a flow of migrants from Central America into the U.S. At a news conference in London, President Donald Trump reiterated that his import taxes on Mexican goods will take effect next week at a level of 5%, rising to a peak of 25% until Mexico complies with his demand to cut off Central America migration.

The Fed conference in Chicago is focused on how the central bank can make its rate policy more effective at a time when inflation has remained chronically below the Fed’s target level. In his remarks, Powell called persistently low inflation the “pre-eminent monetary policy challenge of our time,” because it limits the Fed’s ability to support the economy by cutting rates.

Powell said that in its first-ever public review of its operations, the Fed will aim to improve its rate strategies, the tools it uses to achieve its objectives and the way it communicates its actions to the public.

He called persistently low inflation the “pre-eminent monetary policy challenge of our time,” because it limits the Fed’s ability to support the economy by cutting rates. Next month, the economic expansion will become the longest period of uninterrupted growth on record, surpassing the 10-year expansion of the 1990s.

The Fed manages interest rates to achieve two goals: maximum employment and stable prices. Even though unemployment has reached a 50-year low of 3.6%, inflation has failed to rise to the Fed’s target of 2%. The Fed regards that target as the optimal level for annual price increases and becomes concerned if inflation stray too far above 2% or too far below it.

But the Fed’s efforts to achieve the 2% target have so far failed even though it kept its key policy rate at a record low near zero for seven years. It began gradually increasing its policy rate in 2015.

After raising rates nine times, it declared in January that it would be “patient” in raising rates further. The policy rate at the moment is in a range of just 2.25% to 2.5%, meaning that the Fed has less room than usual to cut rates to stimulate growth.

What the central bank can do to manage the economy when inflation is so low and rates have little maneuvering room will be a key topic at the two-day conference.

“Our obligation to the public we serve is to take those measures now that will put us in the best position to deal with our next encounter with the ELB,” Powell said, referring to the “effective lower bound” for interest rates — essentially, zero.

“With the economy growing, unemployment low and inflation low and stable, this is the right time to engage the public broadly on these topics,” Powell said.

In addition to the Chicago conference, the Fed is holding listening sessions around the country to gather public comments. Powell said that after this outreach, Fed officials will begin using their regular meetings to discuss possible changes.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

Ketanji Brown Jackson takes the oath for the Supreme Court....
MARK SHERMAN Associated Press

Jackson sworn in, becomes 1st Black woman on Supreme Court

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, will be sworn as the court's 116th justice Thursday, just as the man she is replacing, Justice Stephen Breyer, retires.
17 hours ago
The Supreme Court is pictured. The court just limited the EPA...
MARK SHERMAN Associated Press

Supreme Court limits EPA in curbing power plant emissions

The Supreme Court on Thursday limited how the nation's main anti-air pollution law can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
17 hours ago
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, ...
DARLENE SUPERVILLE and ZEKE MILLER Associated Press

Biden says transatlantic alliance has adapted to new threats

Biden's comments came at a press conference in Madrid at the conclusion of the annual meeting of NATO leaders and after he attended a summit with the Group of Seven advanced democratic economies in the Bavarian Alps.
17 hours ago
A Rite Aid logo is displayed on its store...
HALELUYA HADERO, AP Reporter

Amazon, Rite Aid cap purchase of emergency contraceptives

Retailers limiting purchases is standard practice that helps retailers prevent stockpiling and reselling at higher prices.
17 hours ago
FILE - Hershel "Woody" Williams, center, the sole surviving U.S. Marine to be awarded the Medal of ...
The Associated Press

Last remaining WWII Medal of Honor recipient dies at 98

A 98-year-old man from West Virginia, who was the last Medal of Honor recipient from World War II has died.
2 days ago
Mourners pay their respects at a makeshift memorial at the site where officials found dozens of peo...
The Associated Press

Toll now at 53 in San Antonio as families wait for answers

The families of the dead migrants found inside a tractor-trailer earlier this week are waiting for answers.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Powell hints Fed will cut rates if needed over trade wars