In a prepared testimony to Congress, Powell said that domestic and global developments have “along with ongoing government policy uncertainty, warranted taking a patient approach with regard to future policy changes.” Like Williams, Powell said that economic data will continue to be the primary driver in future Fed decisions, but will be more flexible with the inclusion of new data.
“Going forward, our policy decisions will continue to be data dependent and will take into account new information as economic conditions and the outlook evolve,’’ Powell told the Senate Banking Committee. “We’re in no rush to make a judgment about changes in policy.”
On the plus side, Powell said the economy is exhibiting robust employment with strong wage growth and increased labor force participation.
“Wages have moved up. We welcome that,” he said. “We don’t find it troubling from an inflation standpoint.” He added that “this is a good time to be patient and watch and wait and see how the situation evolves.”
Powell’s comments come after U.S. equities finished 2018 as their worst year in over a decade. The Dow fell 5.6 percent, while the S&P 500 lost 6.2 percent and the Nasdaq Composite fell 4 percent.
December alone resulted in the Dow falling 8.7 percent and the S&P 500 losing 9 percent, making it the worst December since 1931. However, as evidenced by the latest mentions of patience, it appears the Fed is finally paying closer attention to the pulse of the markets.
“Financial markets became more volatile toward year-end, and financial conditions are now less supportive of growth than they were earlier last year,’’ the Fed chairman said. “Growth has slowed in some major foreign economies, particularly China and Europe.’’
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