PARIS (Reuters) – Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reiterated pledges to “act as appropriate” to keep the U.S. economy humming in a speech on Tuesday that did not deviate from expectations that an interest rate cut is on the way.
Many Fed officials said at their most recent meeting that concerns including a U.S. trade war and inflation short of the Fed’s 2% annual target all made a stronger case for stimulus, Powell said.
“We are carefully monitoring these developments and assessing their implications for the U.S economic outlook and inflation, and will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion,” he said in remarks prepared for delivery at a French government conference in Paris.
Markets and analysts widely expect the Fed to deliver a cut after its July 30-31 policy meeting.
The remarks come after a round of strong economic data that policymakers have downplayed in light of the risks that they see. On Tuesday, for instance, data from the Commerce Department showed that U.S. retail sales increased more than expected in June. That followed earlier reports that suggested solid employment growth in June and a pickup in underlying inflation.
Powell said the economy continues to turn in “solid” growth that is helping keep a “strong labor market” on track and support a bounce back in consumer spending.
Yet he cited a basket of “uncertainties” that cloud the Fed’s rosy outlook. Beyond the U.S.-China trade conflict and inflation persistently below the Fed’s own targets, Powell cited a global growth slowdown, U.S. federal debt ceiling negotiations and Britain’s chaotic exit from the European Union.
The Fed’s policy rate is currently in a range of 2.25-2.50%, and the bank’s last rate increase occurred in December, a hike that has been fiercely criticized by President Donald Trump. Financial futures markets point to a 100% certainty among investors and traders that the Fed will lower that rate by at least a quarter percentage point this month.
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