September 20, 2019 / 2:39 PM / a month ago

Fed's Clarida hails strong U.S. consumer but says risks remain

FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Vice Chair Richard Clarida reacts as he holds his phone during the three-day "Challenges for Monetary Policy" conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, U.S., August 23, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Crosby/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. consumer sector is in excellent shape but risks to the economic outlook mean that the Federal Reserve will decide the course of interest rates from one meeting to the next, Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida said on Friday.

“I have a lot of confidence...I cannot think of a time where in the aggregate the consumer has been in better shape,” Clarida said in an interview with broadcaster CNBC.

“We all agree we are in a good place and that the momentum is solid...we think of the adjustment we made this week and in July as providing some insurance against some downside risks to a favorable outlook,” he said.

He added that Fed policymakers would decide the course of interest rates at their next policy meeting in October and beyond “on a case by case basis.”

In a split decision, the Fed voted on Wednesday to cut borrowing costs by a quarter of a percentage point to a range of 1.75% to 2.00% after a similar cut in July.

Clarida said that risks from slowing global growth and trade policy tensions remained. “We’re going to be very attentive to the data, not only the baseline data but the risks to the outlook,” he said.

Asked about growing the Fed’s balance sheet, Clarida repeated Chair Jerome Powell’s comments that it would be on the agenda for the upcoming October meeting but downplayed the idea that increasing its size would amount to another round of quantitative easing.

“When that process commences it will not be QE, just central banking 101,” he said.

Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Andrea Ricci

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