Trump says Fed 'out of control' but keeps Powell

Heather Scott, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 12 2018 08:13 AM

US President Donald Trump looks on as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powel speaks at the White House. Carlos Barria, Reuters/File

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump renewed his attacks on the US central bank on Thursday, saying it was "out of control" in raising interest rates but that he had no plans to dismiss Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

Trump blamed the Federal Reserve for the global stocks rout that continued Thursday for a second day amid concerns about rising interest rates.

"It is a correction that I think it is caused by the Federal Reserve, with interest rates," Trump told reporters at the White House. "I think the Fed is out of control."

However, asked about Powell's future, Trump said, "I'm not going to fire him."

Trump named Powell to lead the central bank but can only fire him for cause.

Earlier in the day, Trump told the Fox & Friends television broadcast that the central bank was "making a big mistake" by being "too aggressive" in raising rates.

However, he acknowledged higher rates helped savers.

The comments followed his strongest criticism of the Fed late Wednesday when he said the central bank had "gone crazy." 

US shares fell sharply on Wednesday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more than 800 points in its worst tumble since February.

The rout caused a domino effect worldwide, with losses spreading to Asia and Europe on Thursday as investors remained concerned about rising rates -- which would send more buyers out of equities and into bonds -- as well as the impact of Trump's trade conflict with China on corporate profits.

After a roller coaster ride Thursday, the Dow lost another 545 points for a drop of more than two percent. London also lost nearly 2 percent, Frankfurt fell 1.5 percent, and Tokyo plunged nearly 4 percent.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Thursday said Trump's opinions had no weight on the Fed's actions.

"We know the Fed is independent. The president is not dictating policy to the Fed. He didn't say anything remotely like that," he said on CNBC.

And Kudlow said the Fed was managing "the transition from ultra, ultra easy money...to something more normal," by raising rates gradually.

Trump has repeatedly touted the spate of Wall Street records as proof of the success of his economic program, including his confrontational trade strategy, and criticized the Fed for raising the benchmark interest rate -- three times this year -- saying it would undermine his efforts.

'DO THE RIGHT THING'

In fact it is largely his policies that are behind the changes: tax cuts and increased government spending are expected to juice the economy, adding to the Fed's justification to raise interest rates.

Meanwhile, trade conflicts raise costs for companies, which could hit the bottom line in quarterly earnings -- something analysts said had helped prompt Wednesday's sell-off.

The attacks on the Fed are another example of Trump breaking with recent norms. The Fed is an independent body and presidents in recent decades have avoided commenting publicly on its actions.

Powell has brushed off the comments, saying officials do not pay attention to politics.

"This is just who we are and I think who we will always be, which is, we're a group who -- we're quite removed from the political process," Powell said in a recent interview.

"And we just try to do the right thing for the medium and longer term for the country."

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde also defended the Fed on Thursday.

Raising interest rates was justified "for those economies that are showing much improved growth, inflation that is picking up...unemployment that is extremely low," Lagarde told a press briefing in Bali, Indonesia where the IMF is holding its annual meeting.


© Agence France-Presse