For a second straight day President Donald Trump has tweeted out criticism of the Federal Reserve’s policy decision to raise interest rates.
In his tweets today the President wrote: “China, the European Union and others have been manipulating their currencies and interest rates lower, while the U.S. is raising rates while the dollars gets stronger and stronger with each passing day — taking away our big competitive edge,” one tweet read. In the other President Trump wrote, “The United States should not be penalized because we are doing so well. Tightening now hurts all that we have done. The U.S. should be allowed to recapture what was lost due to illegal currency manipulation and BAD Trade Deals. Debt coming due & we are raising rates — Really?”
The dollar fell on the President’s comments. The Dollar Spot Index of the Dollar against seven other currencies was down 0.61% as of 1:15 p.m. New York time. The dollar was down 0.58% against the euro and 0.71% against the yen. The Invesco Currency Shares Japanese Yen ETF (FXY) that I added to my Perfect 5 ETF Portfolio is up 0.80% today along with the yen. (To follow that portfolio, subscribe to either of my paid sites JubakAM.com (for $199) or JuggingWithKnives.com (for $79.)
What’s the financial market afraid of?
The Fed, whatever you think of its radical expansion of its balance sheet during the global financial crisis, is now widely seen as the keeper of financial sanity in Washington. The White House is occupied by a President who declares that he’s a fan of debt and who has a spotty record of repaying debt in his own pre-White House business life. In December Congress passed a huge tax cut that looks like it will blow out the deficit over the next 10 years–and the Republicans who control Congress are already talking about a second round of tax cuts that would make the tax reductions in the December legislation permanent. (It’s not clear to me how making those cuts permanent would jump budget hurdles. After all the December tax cuts were written to expire precisely so they would fit in under budget caps.)
In that context the financial markets see the Federal Reserve and its current policy of raising interest rates and starting to reduce the size of its balance sheet as the only (even if limited) guarantor of the U.S. dollar. (The Fed has raised interest rates five times in this rate cycle.)
By precedent Presidents don’t openly criticize Fed policy and President Trump’s comments strike many in the market as an attempt to curtail the Fed’s independence and change Fed policy.
You can understand the Trump administration’s desire to have the Fed reverse its policy of raising interest rates since higher interest rates are a leading danger to the continued economic expansion that the administration touts so ofter. (Higher interest rates would be an especially acute danger if the administration’s tariff war succeeds in raising inflation (by increasing the prices of foreign goods U.S. consumers buy) and in lowering U.S. (and global) economic growth.
On the other hand, this week old Treasury and Fed hands Timothy Geithner, John Paulson, and Ben Bernanke raised a red flag saying that the global and U.S. financial authorities–and that includes the Fed–are inadequately prepared for a major financial crisis of the size of the global financial crisis.