President Donald Trump on Friday excoriated the Federal Reserve and the man he hand-picked to lead the institution, ramping up his relentless critiques by asking whether the Fed was a “bigger enemy” than China.
After Fed chief Jerome Powell declared at a conference in Jackson Hole that the central bank was prepared to sustain the U.S. economy with more rate cuts, Trump upped the ante with more broadsides against Fed policy.
In a series of posts on Twitter, the president both lambasted the central bank while demanding that U.S. companies seek alternatives to China as the trade dispute between the two countries takes a turn for the worse. On Friday, Beijing announced a new round of retaliatory tariffs worth $75 billion, which will be imposed in two separate tranches on September 1 and December 15.
Trump’s tone was even more harsh than usual, asking whether Powell was worse for the economy than Chinese President Xi Jinping, with whom he’s been sparring over bilateral trade.
....My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019
Trump’s tweets sent major market benchmarks reeling, as investors anticipated a worsening of the crisis between the world’s two largest economies. The S&P 500 (^GSPC) Dow (^DJI) and Nasdaq (^IXIC) all tumbled by over 1% in the wake of the president’s tirade.
China is an integral part of the global supply chain and a vast market for most of America’s multinationals. Many economists say that shifting production and finding alternative markets is far easier said than done.
Even before the central bank cut rates for the first time since the 2008 crisis, the president has been lashing the Fed for not doing enough to prevent the economy from tipping into recession.
In recent weeks, he’s taken to complaining about the dollar’s relative strength — which has jumped amid safe-haven flows during the U.S.-China trade spat.
As usual, the Fed did NOTHING! It is incredible that they can “speak” without knowing or asking what I am doing, which will be announced shortly. We have a very strong dollar and a very weak Fed. I will work “brilliantly” with both, and the U.S. will do great...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019
Meanwhile, comments from the Fed’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) members and other policymakers underscore the lack of consensus about how aggressively the central bank should be in cutting rates, if at all.
"As the minutes from the July FOMC meeting indicated, the nation’s central bankers were divided on the question how exactly to proceed while settling on the quarter-point rate reduction,” said Bankrate.com’s senior economic analyst, Mark Hamrick.
“Powell emphasized in his speech that there’s no playbook here noting as he put it 'no recent precedents to guide any policy response to the current situation.' And that’s to say nothing of the president’s actions which have included imposing tariffs and delivering an almost daily barrage of verbal criticism of Powell,” Hamrick added.
Javier David is an editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow Javier on Twitter: @TeflonGeek