Trump Calls for Fed to Cut Rates, Says Economy Would be a ‘Rocket Ship’

The Associated Press

President Donald Trump criticized the Federal Reserve Friday, calling on the Fed to cut interest rates and reverse the roll-off of its $4 trillion balance sheet.

“I personally think they should drop rates,” Trump said to reporters on the White House lawn. “I think they should drop rates, and they should get rid of quantitative tightening. You would see a rocket ship. Despite that we’re doing very well.”

The Federal Reserve has been shrinking its balance sheet by not reinvesting the proceeds of maturing bonds it acquired through its quantitative easing process. This is often referred to as ‘quantitative tightening.’

“I would say in terms of quantitative tightening it should actually now be quantitative easing,” Trump said.

The Fed hiked rates in December, a move that has been sharply criticized by White House aides and the president himself in the past. In January, the Federal Reserve backed off its stance of shrinking its balance sheet through next year, saying it would likely pause later this year. It also announced that it would no longer be raising rates gradually, announcing a new policy of patience.

The Department of Labor said on Friday that the economy added 198,000 jobs in March, easing concerns that the first quarter’s apparent economic slowdown could deepen into a recession. The Fed said in March that it expects the economy to grow 2.4 percent this year, substantially below the Trump administration’s target of 3 percent.

Stephen Moore, one of Trump’s picks for the two vacant seats on the Federal Reserve’s board of governors, has said he thinks the Fed should reverse the last two hikes, which would bring the central bank’s target range down a half of a percentage point to between 1.75 percent and 2 percent. The effective federal funds rate has hovered around 2.4 percent this year.

Inflation has been very low, defying predictions that a tight labor market, higher wages, and tariffs would push prices up. In March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said the Consumer Price Index had risen by just 1.5 percent compared with a year ago, substantially below the 2 percent inflation targeted by the Federal Reserve. Low energy prices have been one of the drivers of low inflation in recent months but even excluding energy and often volatile food prices, consumer prices were up just 2.1 percent, according to the latest available data.

Trump has been far more critical of the Fed than his recent predecessors. The last president who was as openly critical of the Fed was Ronald Reagan, who publicly battled with then-chairman Paul Volcker. The president’s critics charge that his comments risk politicizing the monetary policy.

Nonetheless, Trump has been careful to avoid appearing to interfere with the Fed’s independence. On Friday, he couched his comments by describing them as his “personal” view.

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