Powell: Trade Uncertainties, Slowing Global Growth Pressuring U.S. Economy

Testifying before the House Financial Services Committee yesterday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said he doesn't "expect a severe downturn” in the near future, but warned that a “cross-current” of trade uncertainties and slowing global growth could require a more accommodative monetary policy stance.

Powell’s remarks come ahead of a Federal Open Market Committee meeting this month that could see the Fed’s first interest rate cut in a decade.

During his testimony, Powell also addressed the ongoing effort to transition away from the London interbank offer rate, noting that the Fed has been increasing its focus particularly on the retail side to ensure that contracts have appropriate fallback language in the event Libor is discontinued.

“The situation we’re aiming for is one in which people have either moved their obligations to [the Secured Overnight Financing Rate] or some other rate, or, failing that, they have a rate in their contract where if Libor is no longer published, the other rate seamlessly falls into place," Powell stated.

Powell also echoed comments made this week by Fed Vice Chairman Randal Quarles regarding the need to evolve large bank stress tests. While he assured lawmakers that the Fed has no interest in making the tests easier, “there is a risk that if we don’t continue to adapt to the markets and to the institutions and to the state of the economy, that they will become stale and people will become complacent."