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Powell Fed Talks Tariff Worries Without Tallying Likely Fallout

  • Trump-selected Fed chairman says issue came up at FOMC meeting
  • Business leaders are citing policies as a risk going forward
Fed Chair Powell comments on FOMC discussions of the economic impact of U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum .

President Donald Trump’s tough trade rhetoric has got the Federal Reserve talking.

Chairman Jerome Powell, picked by Trump to lead the U.S. central bank, said policy makers had not altered their economic outlook following the president’s announcement of trade tariffs on steel and aluminum and threats of measures against Chinese goods. But officials reported hearing worries from business leaders.

“A number of participants in this FOMC did bring up the issue of tariffs,” Powell said on Wednesday after leading a Federal Open Market Committee meeting for the first time. A number of Fed officials have gathered from business leaders that “trade policy has become a concern going forward for that group,” he said.

Later in his press conference, Powell said Fed officials reported hearing relatively new business-leader concerns about future trade actions and are seeing it as a “risk-to-the-outlook kind of thing.”

“The kind of things people are talking about would be more widespread retaliation and more widespread actions,” he said.

If he wasn’t alarmist about tariffs, Powell also wasn’t markedly optimistic about the supply-side benefits of fiscal policy. Asked whether tax cuts could bring sustained growth to the Trump administration’s 3 percent goal, he suggested that would be a heavy lift.

“That is well above almost all estimates, current estimates of potential long-run growth,” he said. “It would take significant increases in productivity and labor force participation to get there.”

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