Trump Slams the Fed Again, Complaining About High Interest Rates
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg)

Trump Slams the Fed Again, Complaining About High Interest Rates

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(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump slammed the Federal Reserve over interest rates and charged into confusion among investors caused by a speech from the central bank’s New York branch.

“I like New York Fed President John Williams first statement much better than his second,” Trump said Friday in a barrage of tweets that renewed his criticism of Fed rate hikes last year and its strategy to gradually shrink its balance sheet. “His first statement is 100% correct in that the Fed ‘raised’ far too fast & too early. Also must stop with the crazy quantitative tightening.”

The president’s remarks add a twist to what was already a perplexing tale that unfolded Thursday, after Williams spoke at an event. Investors initially increased bets on a half-point reduction after the central banker discussed the benefits of moving policy quickly in the face of economic weakness when rates are already close to zero. Those bets got pared after a New York Fed spokeswoman several hours later issued a statement stressing the speech was academic and not about potential upcoming policy action.

It’s unusual for the Fed to try to publicly walk back a speech and it’s even more unusual for the U.S. president to weigh in. That said, Trump has up-ended almost 30 years of a White House practice of avoiding public remarks on the Fed out of respect for its independence, including commenting on whether he has the power to demote Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.

A spokeswoman for the New York Fed declined to comment Friday on the president’s tweet.

Compounding market reaction Thursday to Williams’s speech was the fact that they were followed a short while later by Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida, who also discussed the benefits of acting decisively if the economy stumbles.

Their remarks, as the central bank is about to enter a blackout on public comments ahead of the meeting, were the latest to signal the central bank is preparing to lower borrowing costs to counter uncertainties stemming from Trump’s trade war and weaker global growth. The target range for their policy benchmark is currently 2.25% to 2.5%.

The prospects for a cut have not swayed Trump, who has continued to rail against the central bank even as it’s pivoted towards monetary policy easing.

“Because of the faulty thought process we have going for us at the Federal Reserve, we pay much higher interest rates than countries that are no match for us economically,” the president said. “In other words, our interest costs are much higher than other countries, when they should be lower. Correct!”

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