President Trump wants the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates immediately, his top economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Friday, making it clear that the president is still angry with the central bank.
U.S. interest rates are sitting just shy of 2.5 percent, the highest in over a decade although low by historical standards. Trump and Kudlow want them to be about 2 percent.
“I’m am echoing the president’s view. He’s not been bashful about that view,” Kudlow said on CNBC Friday. “We don’t want to threaten this great recovery.”
Later Friday, Trump wrote on Twitter that the Fed had made a mistake when it raised interest rates, saying low inflation demonstrates the central bank’s actions were unwarranted. Had the Fed left rates lower, Trump asserted, the U.S. and global economies would be stronger.
Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell — a Trump appointee — said this month that the central bank does not plan to raise interest rates this year. The central bank’s next move could be an increase or a decrease, Powell said, depending upon how the economy looks in the months ahead.
According to Kudlow, Trump wants swift action, although he said the White House doesn’t see this as an “emergency.” Last Friday the president nominated his ally Stephen Moore to fill an open seat on the Fed’s board of governors. Moore told conservative radio this week that he would advocate for a cut in interest rates if the Senate confirms him to the post.
Wall Street has started to price in a rate cut later this year, a signal that investors think that’s needed. According to the FedWatch Tool where traders bet on what the central bank should do with interest rates, over 40 percent think the Fed will reduce rates once and 20 percent now agree with Trump that the Fed will cut rates twice — or more.
The Fed is supposed to be independent of politics and has spent years trying to build up credibility that it will act in good faith for the long-term needs of the economy, even if it means a bit of pain in the short term. Some politicians, including President George H.W. Bush, blamed the Fed for costing them reelection.
Trump is breaking with the precedent the last few presidents set not to criticize the Fed or speak out about what the central bank should do, part of his predecessors’ effort to preserve the Fed’s independence.
Trump argues the economy could be growing at 4 percent if the Fed didn’t put interest rates so high. Few economists agree that the economy can growth that fast, but views are mixed on whether the Fed made a mistake by raising rates a quarter point in December. The U.S. economy expanded at a rate of about 3 percent last year and most expect it to grow about 2 percent this year.
Most economists think the economy is slowing, which is why they believe the Fed might have to cut rates. Trump wants to make the economy a central part of his reelection campaign and doesn’t want to see it decelerate.
In December, Trump asked close confidants if it would be possible to fire Powell, a move many say is not legal. Moore advocated for Trump to dump Powell, but says he now regrets that. Kudlow told The Washington Post last week that he thinks Powell is doing a decent job and doesn’t believe it’s possible to fire the Fed chair.
On CNBC Friday, Kudlow tried to say the White House is just sharing its view on what the Fed should do, not stating what it must do.
“It is up to the Fed. I’m not here to criticize the Fed … this is our point of view,” he said.
Stocks rallied Friday to close out the best quarter in years as Wall Street has welcome the Fed’s halt in hiking interest rates. The S&P 500 has gained about 13 percent, the best performance since the third quarter of 2009.