Powell says Fed is nearing decision on balance sheet runoff

Fed Powell Testimony Reiterates Patience on Rate Hikes USD Muted

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With many experts expecting the bank to announce a plan for the balance sheet in March, Powell said more decisions will be announced "fairly soon".

In his testimony, Powell said that the economy grew at a strong pace previous year, with employment and inflation remaining close to the Fed's goals.

During the speech, the Federal Reserve Chairman, Jerome Powell had reaffirmed the transformation of policy by the United States central bank last month and pledged to be patient while hiking interest rate further, saying that a gauge of crosscurrents and conflicting signals had been weakening the case for further rate hikes.

Powell said, "While we view current economic conditions as healthy and economic outlook as favorable over the past few months, we have seen some crosscurrents and conflicting signals". "He's made comments about the Fed having an exchange rate objective in order to support his trade plans, or possibly targeting the U.S. balance of trade", she said.

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Among the liabilities of the central bank, currency in circulation totaled $1.7 trillion at the end of 2018, more than double the amount 11 years earlier.

Powell told lawmakers that the Fed is making its decisions on interest rates based on "our best thinking" and not political considerations.

That included a global market sell-off, fears of a widening US-China trade war, slow growth among major US trading partners and worries that the Fed itself would raise rates more aggressively than conditions warranted.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is delivering his second day of testimony to Congress, this time to the House Banking Committee, now controlled by Democrats. He said he would closely watch emerging risks, including a slowdown in growth in China, Europe and elsewhere, and a severe bout of instability that hit the stock market in the final three months of past year.

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"I think the markets became much more sensitive to these issues", Powell said.

John Higgins, chief market economist at Capital Economics, believes the dollar will continue to benefit from safe-haven flows this year even though investors start to price in rate cuts in 2020.

Powell's Senate testimony will be followed by an appearance Wednesday before the House Financial Services Committee.

"Some data have softened but still point to spending gains this quarter", Mr Powell said, highlighting the sometimes contradictory set of information the Fed grapples with at year-end.

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The Fed in January left rates unchanged in a range of 2.25 per cent to 2.5 per cent.

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