Federal Reserve is flexible and aware of risks, says Powell

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Federal Reserve is flexible and aware of risks, says Powell

US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said during the annual meeting of the American Economic Association in Atlanta on Friday that he would not leave his post if President Donald Trump asks him to resign.

Here's a run-down of the data that have - and haven't - changed since the Fed chief briefed the media on December 19 after policy makers raised rates and signaled two more hikes in 2019.

The Labor Department reported on Friday that 312,000 jobs were created last month, well above market expectations.

Powell stressed Fed officials are patient and keeping a close eye on the voices of financial market, calling Fed policy as flexible and clung to real-time economic developments.

Jerome Powell, chairman of the US Federal Reserve.

"While days like today feel good, we still anticipate more economic weakness ahead and expect a continued back-and-forth grind in markets", said Eric Freedman, chief investment officer at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis.

The pace of Fed rate hikes and the lowering of the balance sheet, which tends to put upward pressure on interest rates, had both been concerns of investors in recent months.

For their part, investors see the next move being a cut, according to pricing in interest rate futures contracts.

The Fed raised its benchmark interest rate four times in 2018, with the latest announced on December 19, when Powell said his institution's policy decisions are "not on a preset course".

Compared to comments he made after the Fed raised rates last month, "it's not that he's changed his message. but that he explained it more patiently and in greater detail", said Lou Brien, market strategist at DRW Trading in Chicago.

Asked if there were any plans to meet with Trump, he declined to give a specific answer, simply saying "I would say that meetings between presidents and Fed chairs do happen". Earlier in the day, the euro zone single currency fell as low as $1.1347 against the dollar after the dollar rose following data that showed United States employers hired the most workers in 10 months in December while boosting wages.

The world's biggest economy expanded well above potential last year and, along with US consumers, is expected to remain strong through this year.

That news, coupled with a strong jobs report, sent stocks rocketing up. Yet signs are growing that Trump's tit-for-tat trade war with China is taking a toll: this week, tech giant Apple and grains trader Cargill warned about weaker sales in China.

"It's hard to square recession worries with the strongest job growth we've seen in years", said Alec Young, managing director of global markets research for FTSE Russell.

But Jason Schenker of Prestige Economics suggested the Fed could still take a hard line.

Speaking after months of volatility in world bond and stock markets, Powell avoided some of the communication missteps that in the past have roiled rather than calmed investors. "They're going to continue to say: we'll watch the incoming data, growth is slowing, financial conditions have tightened, and we'll react accordingly".

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