US President Donald Trump shakes hands with US Fed chair Jerome Powell. Picture: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with US Fed chair Jerome Powell. Picture: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA

Washington — Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell reasserted the independence of the US central bank during White House talks with President Donald Trump on Monday, the Fed said.

Powell attended the meeting, which comes amid an unprecedented campaign of public attacks on the central bank, at the invitation of the president, and was joined by treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, the Fed said in a statement.

In a tweet, Trump, who has lambasted Powell in harsh, personal terms over monetary policy, said the meeting was “good & cordial”, adding that “everything was discussed” including interest rates, inflation, foreign exchange and the Fed’s balance sheet policies.

The Fed, however, said Powell’s comments were consistent with last week’s congressional testimony and did not concern “expectations for monetary policy”, except to say it will depend entirely on new economic information.

“Finally, chair Powell said that he and his colleagues on the federal open market committee (FOMC) will set monetary policy, as required by law, to support maximum employment and stable prices and will make those decisions based solely on careful, objective and non-political analysis,” the statement said.

Powell has long insisted policymakers disregard politics when setting policy. But Trump has repeatedly hammered the central bank, calling policymakers “boneheads” and “clueless”, and accusing them of mistakenly raising interest rates in 2018 and being too slow to lower them in 2019.

The Fed’s policy-setting FOMC has cut interest rates three times this year, saying that Trump’s trade war in particular poses a danger to the economy, which has slowed since the start of the year.

But, after the most recent cut, Powell said in October the central bank will hold its fire for now as officials wait to see how the economy progresses.

Trump and Powell had last met in February, over dinner at the White House.

AFP