Trump steps up attack on Fed chief, says he 'maybe' regrets picking him

President Donald Trump looks on as Mr Jerome Powell, then his nominee to become Fed chief, spoke at the White House on Nov 2, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP, BLOOMBERG) - US President Donald Trump launched a fresh assault against Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell and hinted that he regretted nominating him in the first place. But the president demurred when asked under what circumstances he would fire Mr Powell.

He also told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that he was intentionally sending a direct message to the Federal Reserve chairman that he wanted lower interest rates, even as he acknowledged that the United States central bank is an independent entity.

US presidents usually remain silent on such issues in respect towards the Fed's independence. Mr Trump has previously called Fed policies "crazy".

"Every time we do something great, he raises the interest rates," Mr Trump told the Journal. He "almost looks like he's happy raising interest rates", the president added.

Mr Trump told the Journal it was "too early to say, but maybe" he regretted nominating Mr Powell for the four-year term he started in February.

"He was supposed to be a low-interest-rate guy. It's turned out that he's not," Mr Trump added.

It is unclear whether the president would have the authority to remove Mr Powell.

The Federal Reserve Act says the president can remove Fed governors "for cause", but that provision does not apply to the chairman, according to the Journal.

Mr Trump said the Fed poses the biggest risk to the US economy, adding that higher interest rates would slow growth and add to the national debt.

"To me, the Fed is the biggest risk, because I think interest rates are being raised too quickly," Mr Trump said.

US growth reached 4.2 per cent year on year in the second quarter, its strongest pace in four years.

On Friday, the government is set to publish the first estimate for the third quarter, which is expected to be 3.3 per cent, according to analysts.

The criticism comes after Mr Trump last week called the Federal Reserve his "biggest threat" and said Mr Powell was moving "too fast" in hiking rates.

The Fed has raised interest rates three times this year as it seeks to prevent a vibrant economy from overheating, and it is widely expected to raise rates again by 0.25 per cent in December.

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