By Jeffry Bartash
The president of the United States has bashed the Fed and his hand-picked chairman, Jay Powell, repeatedly since the summer for raising interest rates, according to a Dow Jones Newswires report made available to EFE on Thursday.
Wall Street largely took the president's criticism in its stride until Donald Trump reportedly mused about whether he could fire Powell.
That did it.
A frenzy of speculation about the president's intent accelerated a huge selloff in the stock markets in the days leading up to Christmas.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was on track to record its worst loss since the throes of the Great Recession in 1931 until Wednesday's sharp rally.
Opinion might be divided among economists and investors about how fast and how high the Fed should raise US interest rates, but one thing surely unites Wall Street: The Fed should be allowed to do its job free of political interference.
On the heels of these huge losses, Trump has beaten a hasty retreat.
His two top economic advisers, Kevin Hassett and Larry Kudlow, have publicly declared the president has no intention of taking any action against Powell.
"The president has voiced policy differences with Jay Powell, but Jay Powell's job is 100 percent safe. The president has no intention of firing Jay Powell," Hassett told the Wall Street Journal, a sister publication of MarketWatch.
The White House reversal helped to calm markets on Wednesday.
The Dow soared about 1,086 points after an afternoon rally.
Trump, for his part, still insists the Fed is raising interest rates too quickly, but he's calibrated his message.
See, the Fed is raising rates, Trump said on Christmas Day, because the economy is doing so well! And they'll probably figure out the error of their ways very soon, the president suggested.
The president was quiet about the Fed on Wednesday, but mainly because he made a surprise visit to US soldiers in Iraq.
He's sure to find a kinder reception there than he would on Wall Street.
The last thing investors want is for the White House or Congress to call the shots on monetary policy.
After all, independence is the hallmark of modern central banking.
Take that away and monetary policy is left to the vagaries of politicians who now and forever tend to strongly favor easy money.
That's a recipe for disaster, as it's been repeatedly shown by countries whose banks lack independence.
Even if Trump were bold enough try, it's extremely unlikely he would succeed, Dow Jones said in a report made available to EFE.
The laws governing the Fed suggest a chairman can only be fired for improper behavior, not just for disagreeing with the president about interest-rate policy.
Nor would the president find any support in Congress. Most lawmakers might like easy money, but there hasn't been a peep of support for Trump's attacks on Powell.
There probably doesn't have to be.
Financial markets have made their views loud and clear.
If there's one thing able to make the businessman-turned-president back down, it's a Wall Street downturn.
Trump can't brag any longer about a soaring stock market in light of its recent fall from grace.
To be sure, the Fed is not and should not be immune from criticism.
The Fed has often been accused, and rightly so, of contributing to the onset of recession by raising rates too high.
Yet the Fed has become the world's most powerful and influential central bank precisely because it's seen by investors around the world as an independent authority.
That reputation could be lost for good if the president was able to vanquish the Fed - to the longstanding detriment of the US economy.