WASHINGTON – The Federal Reserve said Chairman Jerome Powell had dinner at the White House with President Trump on Monday, but the purported topic wasn’t the future of interest rates.
The Fed said Mr. Trump and Powell were joined by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Richard Clarida. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders also confirmed the dinner, although she wouldn’t discuss the details.
During the last three months of 2018, Mr. Trump was sharply critical of the Fed’s move to higher interest rates.
Last week, the Fed signaled that it planned to pause its rate hikes and would be “patient” before raising rates again, an announcement that sparked a huge rally on Wall Street. After the Fed’s last rate-setting meeting on Jan. 30, Chairman Powell said “The case for raising rates has weakened somewhat.”
The Federal Open Market Committee, the bank’s rate-setting panel, issued a statement noting global economic headwinds and low inflation. “In light of global economic and financial developments and muted inflation pressures,” it said, “the Committee will be patient as it determines what future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate may be appropriate.”
In addition to pressure aimed directly at Powell from President Trump for pushing ahead with rate hikes, the central bank has been feeling heat to slow its pace of rate hikes in light of weakening economic growth abroad and the U.S. trade dispute with China.