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Jerome Powell swears as president of the Federal Reserve with fearful markets

09 February 2018

He faces an immediate set of challenges: a wobbly stock market, rising interest rates and the fallout from one of his predecessor's final acts - the removal of four Wells Fargo board members. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 97.92, or 3.55 percent, to 2,664.21, with the energy sector leading losses that included nine of 10 major industry groups.

Powell, born in 1953 in Washington, D.C., also serves as chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee, the system's principal monetary policymaking body.

Such a downturn was inevitable, because reality tells us that there has been a mismatch between the economy and the stock market.

Friday's jobs report showed average hourly earnings rose 2.9 percent in January from a year earlier, the fastest growth in years. That's also below even the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target rate. "The market is reacting to good news, not bad news".

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Other market indicators that might signal global economic troubles, like the price of oil, instead point to a steady-as-she-goes global economy. As New York Times economic-policy correspondent Binyamin Applebaum wrote on Twitter, "The stock market is falling because wages are rising".

US stocks plunged on Monday, marking a second day of trading that generated steep declines, amid fears of rising inflation and potential rate increases by the Federal Reserve.

One of the market worries is that the Fed, under Powell, will accelerate its interest rate hikes, undermining the momentum of a bullish market. There is the expectation that with President Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cut and plans for increased spending, fiscal deficits will grow, leading to higher interest rates as the government enters the bond market to cover its deficit spending.

And that's why the best way to make sense of the drop in the stock market is to think of it as a sideshow to the broader trajectory of the United States and global economy, which for now look perfectly fine.

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In addition, ECB President Mario Draghi warned in a speech that currency market volatility may prove an obstacle for inflation, remarks that potentially kept yields lower as well.

He is a Republican with deep roots in the party's establishment and in the financial industry. As Heather Long wrote in The Washington Post: "The big takeaway for most people who have a 401 (k) or a bit of money in the market is that we have just experienced nearly unprecedented calm in the markets".

The downdraft raised fresh anxieties among Americans who have seen their retirement savings and household worth march steadily higher without any of the gyrations that are part of a normal market cycle. But the latest news should provoke lawmakers to get motivated once again to question the long-term effects of the Fed policies. Remember that institution's dual mandate is to achieve price stability and maximum employment.

Yellen, 71, could have chosen to remain a governor, since she was appointed to the board by President Barack Obama for an unexpired term ending in 2024.

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The Federal Reserve should not be treated the way the political world treats the federal courts and be regarded as untouchable by Congress.

Jerome Powell swears as president of the Federal Reserve with fearful markets