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Powell: Fed may cut rates, but can't solve trade war
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell suggested Friday that the central bank could soon cut interest rates amid rising fears of a recession, but warned that cheaper money would not protect the U.S. economy from President Trump's trade battles.
In a Friday speech, Powell said the bank would "act as appropriate" to sustain a record stretch of economic growth now threatened by counter global headwinds. The chairman expressed confidence in the strength of the U.S. labor market and consumer spending, even as signals of an impending recession flash across the globe.
But Powell also warned that while the Fed could account for fallout from costly trade tensions, the bank cannot solve the uncertainty and anxiety triggered by the Trump's trade conflicts.
"Setting trade policy is the business of Congress and the Administration, not that of the Fed," Powell said at the Fed's annual summit in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
"While monetary policy is a powerful tool that works to support consumer spending, business investment and public confidence, it cannot provide a settled rulebook for international trade."
Powell's remarks come as the Fed faces mounting pressure from Trump to slash interest rates as the rising odds of a recession pose a threat to the U.S. economy and the president's re-election campaign.
While the U.S. economy still boasts unemployment near record lows, booming consumer spending and rising wages, slowing global growth, lagging American business investment and geopolitical tensions have raised red flags of a potential retraction.
Trump has sought to discredit fears of a U.S. recession by blaming the Fed for hindering the economy with higher interest rates. The president has pressured the Fed for more than a year to cut interest rates to help give the U.S. leverage in trade talks with China and the European Union.
Soon after Powell's speech, Trump blasted the Fed in a vicious series of tweets, asking if his handpicked Fed chairman was a bigger threat to the U.S. than Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"As usual, the Fed did NOTHING! It is incredible that they can 'speak' without knowing or asking what I am doing, which will be announced shortly," Trump tweeted Friday, blasting the independent central bank for not coordinating policy with the White House.
"We have a very strong dollar and a very weak Fed. I will work 'brilliantly; with both, and the U.S. will do great," Trump continued. "My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?"
Updated at 10:57 a.m.