2019 Economic Forecast: Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell Defends Rate Hikes

America's monetary policy is set to continue the good times for workers while nudging inflation back to where officials would like to see it, the Federal Reserve chief said Monday.

The remarks from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell underscored central bankers' view that they are likely to hold their fire for the coming months after cutting interest rates three times this year.

"Monetary policy is now well positioned to support a strong labor market and return inflation decisively to our symmetric 2 percent objective," Powell said in a speech to the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce in Rhode Island.

In a look back at developments over the year, Powell said that, while the outlook appeared healthy now, there had been some scares during 2019.

Weakening global growth and President Donald Trump's trade wars together hit US exports, weakened the manufacturing sector and sapped business confidence, which weighed down corporate investments.

Additionally, inflation was vexingly low, adding to worries of falling into a Japan-like cycle of low growth from which breaking from could be hard.

But the strong labor market and wage gains are supporting household spending and consumer confidence -- representing about 70 percent of the economy, said Powell.

"At this point in the long expansion, I see the glass as much more than half full," he said, according to prepared remarks, adding that, with the right policies "we can fill it further."

The Fed is due to hold its final policy meeting of the year from December 10-11. Futures markets as of Monday do not predict another rate cut until September of 2020.

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US interest rates well positioned
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell said the US economic outlook looked healthy. Photo: AFP / Eric BARADAT