WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s testimony to Congress (all times local):
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., tells Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that farmers in his state were being seriously harmed by the Trump administration’s trade battles, which have resulted in retaliatory tariffs being imposed on U.S. farm products such as soybeans.
Asked to quantify the impact of the trade battles on farmers, Powell says the Fed has been hearing from various businesses about the impact of the higher tariffs but that it was difficult to break out the impact that the trade fights were having on farmers versus other issues.
“The agriculture economy has been under a lot of pressure for five years now,” Powell says, noting that crop prices have been low for some time and that has driven up bank foreclosures on farms. “Obviously, the trade issue has not helped this year.”
Powell did not want to go anywhere near critical comments his predecessor Janet Yellen made about President Donald Trump.
Testifying before the Senate Banking Committee, Powell was asked if he agreed with comments Yellen made in a radio interview Monday that she did not believe Trump had a good grasp of economic policy.
Powell replied to Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, with a terse, “I don’t have any comment on that for you, senator.”
Powell came under heavy criticism by Trump last year when the stock market was falling sharply, and the president was blaming the Fed’s interest rate hikes for the decline. But earlier this month, Trump invited Powell to what was described as a cordial dinner at the White House.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says the U.S. economy should keep expanding at a solid, though somewhat slower pace this year. But he warns of growing risks, including a global slowdown, volatile financial markets and uncertainty about U.S. trade policy.
In delivering the Fed’s semiannual monetary report to Congress, Powell says the Fed will be “patient” in determining when to boost its benchmark policy rate in light of the various “crosscurrents and conflicting signals.” He says the Fed’s rate decisions will be “data dependent” as the economic outlook evolves.
The Fed in December indicated it could hike rates two times this year, after four rate hikes in 2018. But many private economists believe the Fed will keep rates unchanged until late this year and may not hike at all.