Powell says uncertainties ‘continue to weigh’ on U.S. economic outlook and Fed stands ready to act

Bloomberg News/Landov Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, shown here during a previous Capitol Hill appearance, has stressed that Congress gives the central bank independence to set policy ‘based on objective analysis and data.’

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that the U.S economy is suffering from a bout of uncertainty caused by trade tension and slower global growth and he pledged again that the central bank would act as needed to support demand.

“Since [the Fed meeting in mid-June], based on incoming data and other developments, it appears that uncertainties around trade tensions and concerns about the strength of the global economy continue to weigh on the U.S. economic outlook,” Powell said in prepared remarks for Congress.

He stuck to the message delivered after the Fed’s June meeting, that uncertainty over trade and the health of the global economy were “crosscurrents” boosting uncertainty.

The Fed chairman said that GDP growth appears to have slowed in the second quarter from the 3.1% annual growth rate in the first quarter, led by a notable slowdown in business investment.

“These concerns may have contributed to the drop in business confidence in some recent surveys and may have started to show through to incoming data,” he said.

The Fed would closely monitor developments “and would act as appropriate to sustain the expansion,” Powell said, repeating a pledge made in June.

The Fed chairman’s comments, in testimony prepared for delivery later Wednesday morning to the House Financial Services Committee, made no mention of the strong payroll growth in June, or the U.S.-China trade truce reached in late June at the G-20 meeting of top finance officials. Some economists have argued that these developments over the past few weeks showed the U.S. economy was on a firmer path than the Fed believed in mid-June.

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