Coronavirus: Trump says Fed not 'aggressive' enough

Trump holds a press briefing with members of the Coronavirus Task Force at the White House. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Donald Trump accused the Federal Reserve on Saturday (March 14) of not being "aggressive" enough to counteract the coronavirus-linked economic slump, while insisting he had no plans to replace the bank's president, frequently a target of his criticism.

"Other boards and other countries and people representing those countries are taking a much more aggressive action than our Fed," Trump said during a White House press conference.

"And their equivalent of the Fed rate is lower, in some cases by two points. That's a lot," the president said.

"We have the currency, the power... We shouldn't have a Fed rate that's higher than our competitor nations."

Trump added that Fed president Jerome Powell had "made a lot of bad decisions, in my opinion."

Powell was nominated by Trump. But the president has frequently found fault with his stewardship of the central bank, calling him "clueless" and chastising him for not lowering interest rates to supercharge the economy.

"I have the right to remove (Powell)," Trump said Saturday.

But "I'm not doing that. No, I'm not doing that."

The Fed last week made an emergency cut in the benchmark borrowing rate, lowering it by a half-point to 1-1.25 per cent to boost confidence amid growing concerns about the damage the virus is inflicting on US and global economies.

The central bank made the decision without waiting for its regular financial meeting, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, a move it has not made since the economic crisis of 2008.

Trump argued Saturday that a deeper cut in rates would make it possible to "refinance" US government debt "very easily."

"We have some tremendous opportunities right now, but Jerome Powell is not making it easy," he said.

On Thursday, the Fed announced it would begin buying longer-term US Treasury debt, rather than just three- and six-month bills, which it has been buying at a rate of US$60 billion a month since mid-October.

Despite his criticism of the Fed, Trump said he was confident there would be a "tremendous" economic rebound once the pandemic ends.

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