White House calls for Fed to reverse on rate hikes

Fed chairman Jerome Powell walks through the Senate Subway at the US Capitol in Washington.
Fed chairman Jerome Powell walks through the Senate Subway at the US Capitol in Washington.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - President Donald Trump's top economic adviser said on Friday (March 29) the White House would like the Federal Reserve to reverse some of its recent rate hikes and stop shrinking its balance sheet to protect the US economy from weakness overseas.

"I am echoing the president's view," National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told CNBC, confirming that he had told news website Axios that he would like the US central bank to cut interest rates by a half-percentage point.

"He would also like the Fed to cease shrinking its balance sheet, and I concur with that view," Kudlow said.

Kudlow's remarks reflect an unusual public split between the White House and the independent central bank.

Prior administrations have taken care not to comment on Fed policy, but Trump has railed repeatedly against the central bank's rate hikes. Even so, most of his advisers had tread more carefully and Kudlow's comments were notable for their specificity.

"This is our view. This is his view. This is my view," he said.

"The Federal Reserve is an independent central bank.

They're going to do what they're going to do."

The Fed last week brought a three-year rate-hike cycle to an abrupt end as it abandoned projections for any further increases in borrowing costs this year and said it would stop shrinking its balance sheet in September.

"In the absence of inflation, with some of these global threats, our view is at some point... I wouldn't mind seeing the Fed drop their target rate," Kudlow said.

"We don't want to threaten this great recovery."

"There's no emergency," he added, saying news website Axios may have misquoted him as saying he wanted the Fed to cut rates "immediately."

"The economy looks fundamentally quite healthy. We just don't want that threat."

While he said he felt the Fed had gone too far with rate hikes, he said the Trump administration was standing by Fed chairman Jerome Powell.

"He's our chairman. We're not going to displace him."