The Latest: Powell says politics not part of policy decision

The Latest on the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy meeting (all times local):

3:40 p.m.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says the central bank is a “nonpolitical institution,” and officials were not considering outside criticism in making their decisions.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday tweeted that the Fed needed to cut its key policy rate by a full percentage point and also start quantitative easing by buying bonds to lower interest rates.

Powell did not respond directly to Trump’s suggestions. But he says the Fed went through a lengthy debate over two days of discussions before announcing its decision on Wednesday to keep its policy rate unchanged.

“We don’t think about other factors” outside of how the economy is doing, Powell says. He says the panel felt that the Fed’s policies on interest rates were “in a good place.”


3:30 p.m.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell acknowledges that the U.S. central bank has struggled to meet its target of 2% inflation.

Powell tells reporters at a news conference that many central banks have fallen short of their inflation goals, saying that this likely reflects demographic and global forces that are disinflationary.

Still, Powell is confident that the underlying factors keeping U.S. inflation below 2% are transitory. He said that clothing prices dropped because of changes in the methodology and that airfare prices have been low.

“There are reasons to think those are transitory and will turn around,” he says.


3:14 p.m.

Stock and bond markets seesawed between gains and losses Wednesday afternoon as investors weighed the Federal Reserve’s assessment of the economy and the prospects for future interest rate moves.

Both stocks and bonds rallied after the Fed released its policy statement, which noted that inflation remained unusually low as the economy continues to remain healthy.

The yield on the 2 year Treasury note fell sharply, to 2.21% from 2.26%. That came as investors aggressively bought the notes, anticipating that the Fed would want to keep rates low.

However stocks and bonds reversed course and turned mixed after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell declined to say whether some investors are misguided in expecting the central bank to trim interest rates this year, something traders have been betting will happen before year’s end.


3:05 p.m.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell avoided commenting on some controversial views voiced by President Trump’s pick for the Fed’s Board of Governors, Stephen Moore.

Powell was asked if recent strong wage gains among women workers, which have outpaced men’s wage increases, posed a potential problem for the economy. Moore has written in the past that when women make more than men it can threaten family stability, one of many provocative comments that have threatened his potential nomination on Capitol Hill.

“I think men and women should make the same amount for the same work,” Powell responded.

But when pressed, he declined to go further: “It’s not my role to engage on any nominee for the Fed,” he added.


2:45 p.m.

Powell declined to say whether some investors are misguided in expecting the U.S. central bank to trim interest rates this year.

Powell has effectively hit pause on any future rate hikes, leading to speculation that the Fed could choose to cut rates as insurance against an economic slowdown.

But Powell ducked the question at a news conference.

“The committee is comfortable with our current policy stance,” he said.


2:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump’s controversial choice for the Federal Reserve board of governors issued a statement supporting his own nomination within a minute of Fed officials announcing that they would keep a key short-term rate unchanged.

Stephen Moore, the economics and politics commentator, issued a statement through a public relations firm that noted support from Jeremy Siegel, a finance professor at the University of Pennsylvania who was interviewed on CNBC.

Siegel says that Moore would “help solve the Federal Reserve’s groupthink problem.” Moore favors cutting rates, a stance shared by Trump.

But Moore’s statement also criticizes the possibility of trying to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure by raising taxes.


2 p.m.

The Federal Reserve is leaving its key interest rate unchanged and signaling that no rate hikes are likely in coming months, amid signs of renewed economic health but unusually low inflation.

The Fed left its benchmark rate — which influences many consumer and business loans — in a range of 2.25% to 2.5%. The central bank’s low-rate policy has helped boost stock prices and supported a steadily growing economy whose outlook has brightened since late last year.

The Fed did make a technical adjustment to trim the interest it pays banks on reserves to 2.35 percent as a way to keep its benchmark rate inside its approved range.

The decision Wednesday to make no change in the policy rate policy had been expected despite renewed pressure from President Donald Trump for the Fed to cut rates aggressively to help accelerate economic growth.

The Fed statement had a more upbeat view of the economy, saying that “economic activity rose at a solid rate.” In March, the Fed said that it appeared growth had slowed from the fourth quarter.


12:15 p.m.

Stocks are edging higher on Wall Street and bond yields are lower ahead of the Federal Reserve’s latest policy statement.

Investors will be closely parsing the Fed’s announcement, which is due out later Wednesday afternoon, particularly any references to how the Fed thinks the economy is doing.

Assurances from the Fed late last year that any interest rate increases in 2019 were unlikely helped the stock market recover from a steep rout. Investors had worried that the Fed could destabilize the economy if it continued raising borrowing costs.

The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were both up about 0.1% at midday.

Bond prices rose after a report on the manufacturing sector came in weaker than analysts anticipated.

The yield on the 10 year Treasury fell to 2.48%.


4:45 a.m.

Stock markets are edging higher ahead of a Federal Reserve policy meeting at which the central bank is not expected to change its interest rates but could give clues on their future direction.

Futures for the Dow and the S&P 500 are both up 0.4%. The indexes that are open for trading in Europe, where much of the region is closed for a holiday, are also up slightly, with Britain’s FTSE 100 up 0.1%. The dollar was steady against the yen and euro.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will hold a news conference after the Fed meeting ends Wednesday.

Economists expect the Fed to say that it will not increase its key interest rates anytime soon as it monitors the health of the U.S. and global economy. Low rates tend to help stock markets and the economy by making it cheaper to borrow money. President Donald Trump has called for what no mainstream economist is advocating: interest rate cuts.


12:05 a.m.

The Federal Reserve is all but sure to keep interest rates on hold Wednesday — and for the foreseeable future — even as President Donald Trump keeps up his attacks on the Fed for not cutting rates.

The Fed will likely reiterate a message that has reassured consumers and investors since the start of the year: No rate hikes are likely anytime soon. The Fed’s low-rate policy is keeping borrowing costs down, helping boost stock prices and supporting an economy that’s growing steadily. And with inflation remaining tame, the Fed is seen as able to stay on the sidelines at least through this year.

Yet Trump insists the economy can do better, and to that end he is demanding what almost no mainstream economist would favor: Cutting rates further.

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