Trump Slams Fed on Eve of Rate Meeting Amid ‘Very Strong’ Dollar
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump slammed the Federal Reserve on the eve of a pivotal policy meeting for “even considering” another interest-rate increase, laying out arguments against a hike to savor the achievement of a strong U.S. economy.
“It is incredible that with a very strong dollar and virtually no inflation, the outside world blowing up around us, Paris is burning and China way down, the Fed is even considering yet another interest rate hike,” Trump said in a tweet on Monday. “Take the Victory!”
The Federal Open Market Committee begins a two-day meeting in Washington on Tuesday and trading in interest rate futures indicate a greater than 70 percent chance of the panel’s fourth hike this year. Analysts said that his latest attack make it extremely hard for Chairman Jerome Powell to pause this week, even if he wanted to.
“Trump makes very good points, to be honest. But if they skip a hike are they caving to Trump?” said Neil Dutta, an economist at Renaissance Macro Research in New York. “If they hike and change nothing else, the stock market will tank as growth expectations decline and Trump vindicated. If they skip, and say they are responding to data, stocks probably catch a bid.”
For months, Trump has accused the central bank of undermining the economy’s growth by hiking interest rates. U.S. presidents have typically refrained from encroaching on the independence of the Fed.
“The criticism by the administration of the Fed is not going to stop, and it’s likely to intensify,’’ said Joshua Feinman, global chief economist at DWS in New York and a former Fed staff economist. “The president stakes so much of his claim to achievement on the stock market and economic performance. He’s worried about whether that will falter, so he’s setting up the Fed to take the blame.’’
After the Fed’s Dec. 18-19 meeting, expectations of further hikes shrink, with investors betting on only one move next year. The consensus among economists is for two 2019 hikes. That is partly due to Fed officials signaling in recent speeches that their tightening campaign has succeeded in raising borrowing costs near to territory that they consider neutral in terms of speeding up or slowing the economy.
Fed officials will update quarterly forecasts for the economy and the project path of interest rates at this week’s meeting. In September they penciled in three moves in 2019.
Fed officials have also noted they are paying attention to risks such as slowing growth in Europe and in interest-sensitive sectors of the U.S. economy. Financial conditions have also tightened, partly because of stock-market losses on the White House’s harsh trade rhetoric and fears that uncertainty over Trump’s policies could hit business investment.
Data released in recent weeks show economic growth is moderating in the fourth quarter -- following the strongest back-to-back periods since 2015 -- while remaining faster than the average pace during an expansion poised to become the longest in U.S. history.
While job and wage gains missed forecasts for November, they were still consistent with solid growth, and strong retail sales suggested Americans are opening their wallets for the holiday season. At the same time, many measures of consumer and business sentiment have declined in recent weeks, particularly gauges of the economic outlook, and factory production was weaker than expected last month.
“We gave the Fed a job. We delegated to them responsibility for two things: managing the long-run inflation and keeping output close to potential. And also being the actor of last resort when we got a financial crisis,” Paul Romer, the former World Bank chief economist who won the 2018 Nobel prize in economics, told Bloomberg Television on Monday.
“And once you give them a job, the thing to do is to let them do their job,” he said. “They’ve got the best data, they are the ones looking past the next election cycle too. And we want someone to being doing that.”
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.