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Fed chief Powell hints at possible rate cut at July 30 policy meeting

By
Daniel Uria & Nicholas Sakelaris
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. Photo by Alex Edelman/UPI
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. Photo by Alex Edelman/UPI | License Photo

July 10 (UPI) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday began the first of two days of testimony in Congress, where he hinted the Fed is eyeing an interest rate cut at its next policy meeting this month.

Before the House financial services committee, Powell said June's positive jobs report hasn't changed the Fed's economic outlook that includes a possible rate cut. When asked how large a cut could be made at the July 30 policy meeting, Powell answered the Federal Open Market Committee will look at "a full range of data."

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Wednesday's testimony came as Powell and the Fed face harsh recent criticism from President Donald Trump, who last weekend called the agency "our most difficult problem" and said its inaction has stifled economic growth. Trump has called for the Fed to cut key interest rates, which would be the first in more than a decade. The Fed board increased interest rates four times in 2018 but hasn't touched them so far this year.

Many analysts saw Powell's testimony Wednesday as a clear endorsement for a rate cut. Oxford Economics analyst Kathy Bostjanic said she expects a quarter-point cut at the July meeting, and another in September.

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Powell also warned Congress that it must soon raise the federal borrowing limit before it's exceeded by government spending -- a deadline experts now believe could arrive by mid-September.

"I wouldn't be able to capture the range of possible negative outcomes from that," Powell said.

"Down the road at some point, ultimately there's a price to pay here."

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Powell's appearance in the House Wednesday was the second of two congressional meetings the Fed chief must attend each year -- to update lawmakers on the state of the U.S. economy and other pressing issues.

"A number of government policy issues have yet to be resolved, including trade developments, the federal debt ceiling and Brexit," Powell said in prepared remarks.

On the issue of economic growth, Democratic lawmakers asked Powell about the root causes of income inequality, to which he said access to education has stagnated compared to other nations.

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"The education system needs to produce people who can take advantage of advancing technology and globalization," he explained, declining to take a position on the movement for a $15 minimum hourly wage nationwide. The federal minimum is $7.25.

"There is no consensus among economists," Powell said. "The question of the minimum wage is one for you."

Powell also addressed Facebook's proposal to launch a new digital currency called Libra, saying it raises "many serious concerns" about privacy, fiscal crimes, consumer protection and monetary stability.

Despite recent trade conflicts and a substantial tariff war, the domestic market remains strong in the eyes of analysts. Last week, the U.S. economy entered its longest period of recession-free growth on record -- 121 months, dating back to 2009.

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