WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump said the dollar is too strong and took a swipe at Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell as someone who “likes raising interest rates.”
The dollar was quoted lower against the euro and the yen in early Asia-Pacific trading hours on Monday after Trump’s comments over the weekend.
The U.S. economy is doing well despite the actions of the central bank, Trump said during a wide-ranging speech Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland.
“I want a strong dollar, but I want a dollar that does great for our country, not a dollar that’s so strong that it makes it prohibitive for us to do business with other nations and take their business,” Trump said.
He didn’t mention Powell by name, but referenced “a gentleman that likes raising interest rates in the Fed, we have a gentleman that loves quantitative tightening in the Fed, we have a gentleman that likes a very strong dollar in the Fed.”
“Essentially there’s no inflation,” Trump said.
“Can you imagine if we left interest rates where they were, if we didn’t do quantitative tightening. Taking money out of the market if we didn’t do quantitative talk, and this would lead to a little bit lower dollar,” he said.
Trump said the U.S. “is booming like never before,” while other countries are “doing very poorly, and that makes it even harder for us to be successful.”
Fed officials kept their target range for the federal funds rate on hold, at 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent, when they met in late January. They’ll gather again in Washington on March 19 and 20, when most economists and investors expect they’ll again leave rates unchanged.
Powell last week repeated the Fed’s recent mantra of being “patient” on future rate moves. Trump in late 2018 repeatedly castigated Powell and the central bank for the series of rate increases made from record low levels achieved during the severe recession a decade ago.
“The only problem our economy has is the Fed,” Trump tweeted on Dec. 24. A few days before that, Bloomberg reported that Trump had discussed firing Powell, his pick to lead the Fed, out of frustration with the string of rate increases.
Since then, though, Trump and Powell discussed the economy over a steak dinner in early February, and Trump’s criticism subsided — especially after the Fed emphasized a more patient approach. The Federal Open Market Committee in January termed inflation pressures “muted,” a key reason to go slow on future rate increases.
The Trump-Powell dinner was characterized at the time as casual and productive by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who was also present, and monetary policy wasn’t discussed. Mnuchin said another get-together may happen.
Saturday’s return to the topic of the Fed by Trump came during a more than two-hour speech in which the president touched on an array of long-standing grievances.