Trump piles pressure on the U.S. Fed as markets sink
President Donald Trump stepped up his relentless assault on the Federal Reserve in a series of Wednesday morning tweets that renewed his demand for “bigger and faster” interest-rate cuts.
“Incompetence is a terrible thing to watch, especially when things could be taken care of sooo easily. We will WIN anyway,” he said. “It would be much easier if the Fed understood, which they don’t, that we are competing against other countries, all of whom want to do well at our expense!”
Concerns over an escalating trade war between the U.S. and China have shaken financial markets and increased bets the Fed will follow a quarter-point cut it made last week with further easing in coming months. The benchmark S&P 500 index was down 1.6 per cent as of 9:55 a.m. in New York and the 30-year Treasury yield closed in on an all-time low.
“They must Cut Rates bigger and faster, and stop their ridiculous quantitative tightening NOW. Yield curve is at too wide a margin, and no inflation!” Trump said. The Fed last week ceased its gradual shrinking of the balance sheet, which the president calls quantitative tightening.
He also called attention to three central banks that cut rates earlier Wednesday -- India, New Zealand and Thailand, though he didn’t name them in the tweet -- and said, “Our problem is not China - We are stronger than ever” before returning to his familiar complaint against the U.S. central bank.
“Our problem is a Federal Reserve that is too proud to admit their mistake of acting too fast and tightening too much (and that I was right!)”
The Fed lowered rates on July 31 for the first time since 2008 in a move aimed at sustaining the record-long U.S. economic expansion amid uncertainties stemming from the trade dispute and weakening global growth. Those tensions jumped up a notch when Trump announced the next day that he was prepared to widen tariffs against China on Sept. 1, and Beijing retaliated.
Chairman Jerome Powell called the cut a “mid-cycle adjustment” rather than the start of a long campaign of easing, though he later clarified that he did not mean to imply that meant only the one move. Investors took the view that deeper Fed easing was needed and U.S. stocks fell.
The Fed, for its part, is pushing back against the notion that the outlook is so grim, pointing to the lowest unemployment in about 50 years. St. Louis Fed chief James Bullard, speaking in Washington on Tuesday, said that “U.S. monetary policy cannot reasonably react to the day-to-day give-and-take of trade negotiations,” and reiterated that, at the moment, he only has one more quarter-point cut for his 2019 forecast.
Trump’s latest attack repeats a series of complaints for this president, who has broken with almost 30 years of White House tradition of staying publicly silent on the central bank out of respect for its independence. The four still-living former Fed chairs issued a joint plea in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week to maintain the central bank’s independence from short-term political pressures.