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  • Trump wants Fed to cut interest rates after stock-market wipeout, but history not on his side

    President Donald Trump is not happy with his choice to run the Federal Reserve, Chairman Jerome Powell. After the latest stock-market drubbing, President Donald Trump said Tuesday he’d like the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates. But that may be wishful thinking. The U.S. is on track to grow 3% annually in 2018 for the first time in 13 years and the unemployment rate has fallen to a 48-year low of 3.7%. The Fed has cut rates a few times when gross domestic product appeared strong, albeit it briefly, but almost never when both growth was stable and unemployment low. There’s no example of the Fed doing since the end of World War II. Shortly before flying to Florida for Thanksgiving, the president told reporters the Fed was somewhat to blame when asked about the plunging stock market and overall health of the economy. He’s been critical of the Fed for months because of its policy to gradually raise U.S. interest rates. Read: Dow finishes down 550 points as stocks erase 2018 gains “I’d like to see the Fed with a lower interest rate. I think the rate’s too high. I think we have much more of a Fed problem than we have a problem with anyone else,” Trump said. The central bank has lifted a key short-term interest rate known as fed funds three times this year, with a fourth hike expected next month. The Fed wants to make sure a strong U.S. economy and tight labor market don’t cause prices and wages to rise so fast they trigger a damaging bout of inflation. U.S. interest rates are still extremely low by historical standards, however, and there’s little evidence the economy is about to stumble. The fed funds rate now ranges from 2% to 2.25%. By contrast, the rate reached as high as 5.25% during the last economic expansion from 2001 to 2007. The economy, for its part, is likely to grow close to 3% in the fourth quarter after gains of 3.5% and 4.2% in the prior two quarters. Inflation, meanwhile, appears stable. The Fed’s preferred PCE price gauge rose 2% from September 2017 to September 2018 — exactly the central bank’s official target. The Fed might change its plans if the stock market continues to tank and the economy slows, but the central bank is unlikely to do so absent the evidence.

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