Wednesday, 23 January, 2019

Longer US government shutdown will hit economy, says Fed chief

Consumer credit outstanding US official warns of recession risk if interest rates go much higher
Rhonda Young | 11 January, 2019, 14:25

Clarida is the latest USA central banker to refine the Fed's monetary message after the hawkish tone of their December 19 statement and forecasts for further rate hikes in 2019 roiled financial markets.

Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Richard Clarida said the central bank should be ready to adjust monetary policy if headwinds to the economy from financial markets or global growth prove persistent, suggesting caution about moving ahead with interest-rate increases.

He also downplayed December predictions from Fed policymakers showing that, at the median, interest rates would be raised twice this year.

"If we have an extended shutdown, I do think that would show up in the data pretty clearly", Powell stated.

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Asked what qualifies for "normal", Powell said "I don't know the exact level."He noted that the balance sheet has declined to about $4 trillion, but that before the 2008 crisis it was below $1 trillion".

Powell said last week that he's "listening sensitively to the message that markets are sending" about downside risks.

The more flexible approach, apparent in the minutes and in recent speeches, has supported stock prices.

The monthly reductions, effectively running on autopilot, have been criticized by some as a steady tightening of financial conditions the Fed should reconsider.

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The partial government shutdown is unlikely to leave a mark on the economy in the short term, though the Fed will have a less clear picture of growth without data from the Commerce Department, which releases figures including retail sales and gross domestic product. Markets have expressed concerns that the Fed's operations to reduce the balance sheet could be depressing the markets and ultimately slow growth. The principal worry is global growth, he said in questioning by David Rubenstein, the co-founder of private-equity firm Carlyle Group, where Powell was previously a partner.

While he has near weekly meetings with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Powell said he has not met with Trump since taking over as Fed chairman, nor does he have any meetings with the president scheduled.

He agreed with the prevailing view of the U.S. economy slowing to around 2.25-2.5 per cent this year, with unemployment holding around the current 3.9 per cent.

"The U.S. economy is solid", Mr. Powell said.

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James Bullard, president of the St Louis Federal Reserve Bank, one of 12 in the Fed system and a voting member of the policy committee this year, called the current interest rate "a good level", in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

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