As interest rates soared once again, President Reagan and his top White House advisers met yesterday with Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to discuss the nation's economy.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes said general economic policy was discussed, and neither side would comment yesterday on the substance of the talks.
The White House has supported the Fed's tight-money policy, but has criticized past surges in money growth, which it claims led to higher interest rates.
After yesterday's meeting, Speakes said, "Of course we do not favor high interest rates." But he added, "We realize the Federal Reserve Board has to take certain steps with the money supply in order to make certain economic corrections . . . We are hopeful that our program will eliminate the necessity for short-term corrective actions of this type, and that we will see a reduction of interest rates once our program gets on-stream."
Volcker has said that the administration and Congress must narrow the deficit to help the Fed contain money growth without higher rates.
Recent turmoil in financial markets and rising interest rates have worried the administration and have set off a search for further immediate spending cuts. The market are apparently concerned at the size of the budget deficit this year and next, and so have not given a vote of confidence to the Reagan plan.
Office of Management and Budget Director David Stockman, who instituted the search for extra spending cuts, sources say, was present at yesterday's meeting, although there was no one from the Treasury or the Council of Economic Advisers. The Treasury secretary and the CEA chairman were out of town yesterday.
Others with the president included White House counsel Edwin Meese, Chief of Staff James A. Baker III and domestic policy adviser Martin Anderson.
One reason for the rise in interest rates has been faster-than-predicted growth in the economy. Yesterday there were mixed signals from a new group of economic indicators.
Personal income and consumption rose only slightly last month, according to the Commerce Department. Incomes rose by 0.6 percent, the smallest increase since last June. Personal spending was up by only 0.2 percent in the month, almost certainly considerably less than the increase in prices. April's $3.3 billion spending rise was less than one-quarter of the $13.4 billion increase in March.
The Commerce Department reported that saving rose by 0.3 percent in March to 5 percent of disposable income. This is part of a three-month moving average. The crude figure for April was up a further 0.3 percent to 5.3 percent.
Wages and salaries were up by only $3.1 billion in April, compared with a rise in March of $8.9 billion. Incomes after taxes rose by 0.6 percent in the month, again probably less than the rate of inflation, after a 0.9 percent rise in March.
On the other hand, the Federal Reserve reported separately that there was less unused capacity in the economy last month. Manufacturers used 80.3 percent of their factory capacity in April, the Fed said. This is equal to the rate last April, before the sharpest slide into recession.
In another report, the Commerce Department said that housing starts were up by 4.2 percent in April, continuing a very modest recovery from a 27 percent drop in February.