Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank can be patient as it assesses risks to a U.S. economy and will adjust policy quickly if needed, but made clear he would not resign if President Donald Trump asked him to step aside.
“With the muted inflation readings that we’ve seen, we will be patient as we watch to see how the economy evolves,” Powell said Friday on a panel with his predecessors Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke at the American Economic Association’s annual meeting in Atlanta.
“We will be prepared to adjust policy quickly and flexibly and to use all of our tools to support the economy should that be appropriate to keep the expansion on track,” he said, adding “there is no pre-set path for policy.”
U.S. stocks extended gains as the Fed chairman sounded like he sees scope to wait and see how the economy performs before raising interest rates again.
Powell’s Fed hiked rates four times last year and projections from its Dec. 19 meeting show officials expect two more hikes in 2019. Sliding equity prices, weakness abroad and mixed economic data at home have prompted calls for the Fed to put rates on hold, but the U.S. labor market remains red-hot.
Data released earlier on Friday showed U.S. employers added the most workers in 10 months as wage gains accelerated.
Powell called the employment figures a “very strong report” and showed no concern about the advance in wages. “Average hourly earnings moved up and that’s quite welcome and also for me at this time does not raise concerns about too-high inflation,” he said.
While most of the economic data he has seen coming have been quite solid, Powell also made clear he was not ignoring signals from financial markets.
“You do have this difference between, on the one hand, strong data, and some tension between financial markets that are signaling concern and downside risks,’’ he said.
In response to questions, Powell also signaled a willingness to include changes to the Fed’s gradual run-off of its balance-sheet in any review of monetary policy.