Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell turned into a cheerleader for the economy in an interview with “60 Minutes” on Sunday.
“We’ve seen a bit of slowing, but still to heathy levels, in the U.S. economy this year,” Powell told the CBS News program.
“I would say there’s no reason why this economy cannot continue to expand,” he added.
A weak retail sales report for December and a meager gain in jobs reported Friday have raised concerns that the slowdown may be more severe than the central bank now expects. Powell did not discuss the jobs report in the interview, but he said spending “popped back up in January.”
At the Fed’s last policy meeting in January, Powell indicated the Fed planned a pause in making any adjustments to interest rates. He said at the time that the Fed moved to a “patient” stance because there was increasing evidence of the global economy slowing down, but stressed “our own economy has continued to perform well.”
“We don’t feel any hurry to change our interest rate policy,” he said, noting the level of the Fed’s benchmark rate was “roughly neutral.”
In Sunday’s interview, Powell said the Fed’s decision to pause on interest-rate hikes was not due to White House pressure. “We will never, ever take political considerations into effect,” he said.
Powell added that said he didn’t think President Donald Trump could fire him. “The law is clear that I have a four-year term. And I fully intend to serve it,” he said.
The American banking system is much stronger and resilient than it was before the financial crisis, Powell said, and the Fed has made a great deal of progress in letting a large financial institution fail.
Instead of too-big-to-fail banks, “what we have…is a resolution mechanism so that if a large financial institution does fail, it can be addressed in what amounts to a bankruptcy kind of a format,” he said.
It has been relatively rare for Fed officials to appear on the national stage. But appearing on “60 Minutes” is now something of a rite of passage for Fed chairmen.
Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke took great pride in his appearance on “60 Minutes” in 2009, noting in his autobiography that two days after his interview aired, the Dow Jones Industrial Average
hit rock bottom, closing at 6,547, and then came climbing back.
The economy has been growing steadily since the summer of 2009. If the expansion lasts past this June, it will be the longest on record.