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Fed Chief Powell: Lower Rates Helping Sustain Growth; No Recession Coming

Fed Chief Powell: Lower Rates Helping Sustain Growth; No Recession Coming

Embattled Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said during a speech Friday that the central bank’s July interest rate cut — and another potential cut in two weeks — have helped sustain U.S. economic growth amid a slowing global economy.

Powell, a frequent public whipping boy for President Donald Trump, who is constantly demanding lower rates, spoke Friday in Zurich, Switzerland, the global center for banking and finance. Powell gave mostly rave reviews of the record-long U.S. economic expansion while the rest of the world has seen slowdowns.

“The Fed has, through the course of the year, seen fit to lower the expected path of interest rates,” he said. “That has supported the economy. That is one of the reasons why the outlook is still a favorable one.”

Powell did however point out several challenges, and drag from Europe in particular, also noting how the U.S.-China trade war between the world’s two largest economies has been a significant dragging force. He also lamented persistently low inflation that has been running below the Fed’s 2% target rate.

The latest jobs report for August was a bit underwhelming, but Powell said the labor market is in “quite a strong position” while consumer sentiment remains “strong.”

“We’re not forecasting or expecting a recession,” he said. “The most likely outlook is still moderate growth, a strong labor market and inflation continuing to move back up.

“Our main expectation is not at all that there will be a recession.”

The Federal Open Market Committee meets again Sept. 17-18, and another 0.25% interest rate cut is the most likely outcome.

Though he is often blasted by Trump, Powell didn’t speak on the criticism specifically, emphasizing the Fed “is committed to nonpolitical decision-making based on the best analysis we can muster.”

“It’s a great place that has a very strong ethic and very high morale because of that commitment to nonpolitical public service,” he said.