ATLANTA – Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell had a new message for markets on Friday: The U.S. economy has “good momentum,” but the central bank will be “patient” about raising interest rates in 2019.
President Donald Trump has bashed Powell, saying that the central bank has been raising interest rates too quickly and causing the stock market decline. But Powell said Friday that he would not resign if the president asked him to.
Stocks surged after Powell’s remarks, with the Dow Jones industrial average leaping more than 600 points in late-morning trading. The Fed has forecast two interest rate hikes this year, but Wall Street traders and Trump don’t want any. Powell’s comments indicate the Fed might be revising its views.
“With the muted inflation readings that we’ve seen coming in, we will be patient as we watch to see how the economy evolves,” Powell said during a panel discussion at the American Economic Association annual meeting alongside former Fed chairs Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke. “We’re always prepared to shift the stance of policy and to shift it significantly if necessary.”
Trump has repeatedly accused Powell of raising interest rates so fast that it’s hurting the economy, but the Fed argues that the economy is expanding faster than normal and no longer needs low rates to stimulate growth.
After the central bank raised interest rates in December, Trump asked advisers if it’s possible to fire Powell, an unprecedented move that many think isn’t legally possible since a Fed governor can only be removed “for cause.”
When asked Friday if he would step down if Trump asked, Powell said simply, “no.”
The president picked Powell for the Fed’s top job in late 2017 but has quickly soured on him after the Fed raised interest rates a full percentage point last