October 4, 2019 / 6:09 PM / 2 months ago

Fed's Powell repeats U.S. economy "in a good place"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. economy is chugging along despite the headwinds it faces, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said on Friday, in remarks that gave little more away about the path of monetary policy.

“While not everyone fully shares economic opportunities and the economy faces some risks, overall it is — as I like to say —in a good place. Our job is to keep it there as long as possible,” Powell said in brief remarks introducing a “Fed Listens” event at the U.S. central bank’s headquarters in Washington.

The Fed cut interest rates for the first time in more than a decade in July and did so again at its subsequent policy meeting in September in what Powell and some others have characterized as “insurance” against risks to the economy.

U.S. job growth increased moderately in September and the unemployment rate dropped to near a 50-year low, the Labor Department reported on Friday, allaying concerns the economy is nearing recession.

There is disagreement within the Fed’s interest rate setting committee on whether there is a need to further lower borrowing costs. The benchmark overnight lending rate is currently in a target range between 1.75% and 2.0%.

U.S. consumer spending, a recent bright spot with outsized importance given it accounts for roughly 70% of economic activity, has shown signs of slowing while earlier this week a key index of manufacturing activity tumbled to a more than 10-year low in September as trade tensions weighed on exports.

The Trump administration’s 15-month trade war with China has also caused a downturn in business investment.

Investors currently see a roughly 80% probability the Fed will cut rates by another quarter percentage point at its next policy meeting on Oct. 29-30, according to an analysis of Fed funds futures contracts compiled by the CME Group

Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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