US markets fall as President Donald Trump hits out at Federal Reserve | News | DW | 24.12.2018
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US markets fall as President Donald Trump hits out at Federal Reserve

The president wrote that the Fed is "the only problem our economy has." Wall Street stocks plunged for a fourth straight session despite Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's efforts to reassure investors.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank more than 650 points on Monday, extending losses after its worst week in seven years. Health care, technology and industrial stocks were hardest hit.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he had called the CEOs of banks JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo and Citigroup to ask if they had "ample liquidity available for lending to consumer, business markets, and all other market operations."

Steve Mnuchin, US Treasury Secretary

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin

Their answers should have reassured the markets, as Mnuchin announced the banks "have not experienced any clearance or margin issues and that the markets continue to function properly." However, he appears to have brought nervousness and a new concern for market watchers to monitor.

A presidential tweet

Mnuchin's comments were followed by a tweet from the president on Monday, again attacking the Federal Reserve, which he criticized for raising interest rates. The target rate range for benchmark funds was increased last week by the US central bank to 2.5 percent, with two more hikes projected for 2019. The move marked the fourth increase this year.

The Dow Jones crossed into bear territory last week for the first time since the 2008 recession. It is down more than 20 percent from its record high on August 29.

"The only problem our economy has is the Fed. They don't have a feel for the [market], they don't understand necessary trade wars or strong dollars or even Democrat shutdowns over borders," Trump wrote on Twitter. "The Fed is like a powerful golfer who can't score because he has no touch — he can't putt!"

Can a president fire a Fed chair?

Mnuchin also tweeted at the weekend that he had spoken with Trump about firing Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. He quoted the president as saying he did not believe he had the authority to remove the central bank chief.

The president's power lies in nominating candidates for the post who are then confirmed by the Senate. Legally, the president can fire the chairman for a specified cause, but not for policy disagreements.

President Trump behind Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell

President Trump behind Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell

Trump's latest tweet comes after the resignation of his defense secretary, during a federal government shutdown over disputes with Congress over the funding and building of a wall at the border with Mexico, and the ongoing trade war with China.

The New York Stock Exchange closed early on Monday (at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time or 1900 UTC). It is closed on Tuesday for Christmas.

jm/ap (Reuters, AP)

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