Trump, Kudlow sing different tunes on the Fed amid market drop

Posted at 2:09 PM, Oct 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-11 16:09:17-04

After President Donald Trump warned that the Federal Reserve is “going loco” and “making a big mistake,” his chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow stepped in front of reporters at the White House and insisted the President wasn’t “calling out the Fed.”

“I don’t think he’s calling out the Fed, quote-unquote. I really mean this,” Kudlow told a group of reporters in the driveway leading to the West Wing. “He has his views. But he’s not saying to them, ‘Change your plan, do this differently.’ None of that stuff. He knows the Fed is independent and he respects that.”

An hour later, Trump was back to calling out the Fed and maintaining they are “making a mistake,” making his case once again that the Federal Reserve should stop increasing interest rates.

“I think the Fed is out of control. I think what they’re doing is wrong,” Trump said. “But I think the Fed is far too stringent, and they’re making a mistake, and it’s not right.”

US presidents have typically avoided commenting on the Federal Reserve’s moves, wary of violating the Fed’s independence. But Trump has forged ahead, repeatedly criticizing the modest interest rate hikes the central bank has delivered in recent months out of concern that the changes will undermine the roaring economy he is presiding over — and giving himself a new foil to help motivate Republican voters ahead of the midterms.

The President has previously defended his comments with the same line of reasoning as Kudlow’s, insisting that he is merely sharing his views in the same way he would have as a private citizen. But delivered as the President, Trump has been accused of threatening the Fed’s longstanding independence, designed to keep monetary policy decisions outside the influence of politics.

On Thursday, Trump moved to blame the Fed’s recent rate increases for the Dow’s 832-point Wednesday plunge, which he and his administration have called a “correction.” The market continued to show volatility on Thursday.

“It’s a correction that I think is caused by the Federal Reserve, with interest rates,” Trump said.

The comments were in direct contradiction to those Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin offered about the market dive in an interview with CNN — 10,000 miles away in Bali, Indonesia.

“I don’t think there was any new news that came out of the Fed today that wasn’t there beforehand,” Mnuchin said. “Markets go up. Markets go down … I see this as a normal correction.”

Still, Trump insisted on Thursday he had no plans to fire Jerome Powell, the Trump-appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve whose tenure has been marred by Trump’s disapproving comments.

“No, I’m not going to fire him,” Trump said. “I’m just disappointed at the clip. I think it’s far too fast, far too rigid, far too fast.”

The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates several times already this year and is expected to stick to press forward with the policy in the near future.

Beyond the impact on the bull market that Trump has frequently touted as a sign of his success as President, the Fed’s interest rate policy has also pushed up the value of the dollar, making US exports more expensive abroad at a time when Trump is working to boost US manufacturing and reverse trade deficits by increasing US exports.

Meanwhile, the President’s advisers, such as Kudlow, have sought to downplay concerns about the impact of the Fed’s decisions — just as they downplay Trump’s comments about the Fed.

“The President says a lot of things,” Kudlow said. “He has a lot of fun.”