Will there be a “Powell put” now that Jerome Powell has taken charge as chairman of the Federal Reserve? To be sure, recent gyrations in stock prices are not sufficient for the central bank to change the policy path just yet. More interest-rate hikes are coming. But the return of volatility raises awareness that markets can shift quickly. Will the Fed be there to keep market turmoil contained? Probably yes, but there is a risk central bankers will be slow to respond to a market downdraft that threatens the economy.
Shortly after the market crash of 1987, the Fed cut rates, changing course in the middle of a tightening cycle. That action has famously become known as the “Greenspan put” because of the implied promise that central bankers led by Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan would bail out market participants who indulged in risky behavior.