Mr. Trump on Monday tweeted that the Fed “blew it” by increasing rates last year, and he has even toyed with the idea of demoting Mr. Powell to the role of governor. Mr. Trump has alternately implied that such a move would depend on Mr. Powell’s actions and denied suggesting a demotion. He said he thought he had the legal authority to do so if he chose, though his authority is unclear.
[Mr. Trump’s feud with the Fed is rooted in history.]
Politics aside, economic developments have prompted a growing number of Fed officials to expect rate cuts before the end of the year, according to economic projections released after their June 19-20 meeting. Investors in fed funds futures had fully priced in a rate cut next month after that meeting. Stocks indexes fell after Mr. Powell’s speech was released Tuesday, suggesting that his characterization of rate cuts as a “whether” rather than a definite plan disappointed some traders.
But Mr. Powell’s Fed colleagues are with him as he watches incoming data warily.
“The economy had solid momentum, but now it’s pedaling against some pretty significant headwinds,” Mary Daly, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said in an interview with The New York Times on Tuesday. “Let’s watch the next six weeks and see if the data reverse,” and “see how the uncertainty resolves itself as we get more information about trade negotiations, and finally, let’s see what other countries are doing to offset potential weaknesses.”
Ms. Daly, who is not currently a voting member but participates in discussions about rate policy, would not say whether she has projected rate cuts this year. But she said she’s concerned that, with more muted growth, it might take longer to push inflation back toward the Fed’s 2 percent goal.
“The bottom line for me is that I want to sustain the expansion so that we can also push inflation back up to our target,” Ms. Daly said.
Wage growth is showing signs of slowing, and several measures of inflation expectations are softening. That increases the risk that price growth will remain permanently below the central bank’s goal, which is meant to provide a buffer to ward off economy-harming deflation.
Growth abroad has also shown signs of stalling. That pullback owes partly to the continuing tariff war between the United States and China, which could arrive at a turning point this week, when Mr. Trump is expected to meet with President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 nations summit in Japan.