Today, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the bank will “act as appropriate” in response to risks from the current trade war. Does that include a rate cut? The bond markets have already priced one (or more) in, but only time will tell. Reuters‘ Howard Schneider and Ann Saphir report:
U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said on Tuesday the central bank will “act as appropriate” in response to risks posed by a trade war, remarks that may open the door to the possibility of a rate cut.
“We do not know how or when these issues will be resolved,” 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, with a strong labor market and inflation near our symmetric 2% objective.”
The brief statement opened a two-day session at the Chicago Federal Reserve intended to shore up the central bank’s policies to prepare for the likely possibility that policymakers will eventually confront another recession and push rates back to zero, eliminating any room to cut further and thus exhausting a traditional policy tool.
The more immediate issue is how the Fed should respond to a trade war expanding on multiple fronts, after U.S. President Donald Trump slapped new 25% tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports and threatened new import taxes on Mexico unless immigration slows. The question of how to respond divides policymakers and markets.
Powell’s remarks did not include a reference to the current Fed target interest rate as appropriate, or repeat the pledge to be “patient” before raising or lowering rates, both of which were standard talking points in recent Fed statements. His comments come a day after St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said in a speech on Monday that a rate cut may be needed “soon.”
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