After President Donald Trump attacked the Federal Reserve over its interest rate hikes on Wednesday, senior officials and banking chiefs have raced to defend the U.S. central bank and its chairman, Jerome Powell.
In the context of a Wall Street stock tumble that went on to reverberate around the world, Trump said the Fed had “gone crazy” and was “making a mistake.”
Voting for four hikes in the last year, the Fed has been trying to prevent the economy from overheating—raising interest rates essentially discourages borrowing. Another hike is expected before 2018 is over.
Efforts to cool down the market generally accompany rises in inflation, but there are few signs of that at the moment. However, these interest rate hikes are coming from a very low point, which was designed to aid recovery after the financial crisis.
According to JPMorgan Chase International’s chairman, Jacob Frenkel, the Fed’s efforts to normalize interest rates are, well, normal. Frenkel told CNBC that, with growth back on track and unemployment low, “that’s the time to normalize.”
“The Fed has announced it in advance, there are no surprises. Guidance was very clear and the Fed is doing the right thing,” said Frenkel, who suggested the hikes had nothing to do with this week’s selloff—the real culprit, he said, was the U.S.-China trade war.
Officials lined up to praise Powell for his independence and judgment. Speaking at the IMF and World Bank annual meetings in Indonesia (as was Frenkel), IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said she “would not associate Jay Powell with craziness,” and Powell’s counterpart at the Bank of England, Mark Carney, said Powell was “an individual that really understands the plumbing of the U.S. and global financial systems.”
“All over the world, it is certainly a good principle to have independence of the central banks and of the central bank governors. Certainly we have advocated that in all countries, and I think that the Fed is no exception,” said Lagarde.
Standard Chartered (scbff) chairman Jose Vinals also told CNBC that central bank independence was a “very important public good and that is something that should be cherished, in particular by political leaders.”