WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump launched a furious and highly personal Twitter attack Friday against the Federal Reserve and Chairman Jerome Powell, fuming that the Fed once more "did NOTHING!" and wondering who is "our bigger enemy" — Powell or China's leader.
The outburst came after Powell, speaking to central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, gave vague assurances that the Fed "will act as appropriate" to sustain the nation's economic expansion.
While the phrasing was widely seen as meaning interest rate cuts, he offered no hint of whether or how many reductions might be coming the rest of the year.
Powell had barely finished speaking before Trump escalated his criticism of the Fed, which he has repeatedly accused of keeping rates too high. For months, the president has ridiculed Powell, who was his own choice to lead the Fed, an independent agency.
"As usual, the Fed did NOTHING!" Trump tweeted, adding, "We have a very strong dollar and a very weak Fed." He went further by saying: "My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powel (sic) or Chairman Xi?" - a reference to China's President Xi Jinping.
That remark appeared to elevate his attacks on the Fed to a new level. Many economists have expressed growing alarm about his criticism of the Fed as an intrusion on its independence and a threat to its credibility.
David Jones, a leading historian of the Federal Reserve, said the "enemy" remark set an unfortunate precedent.
"This challenges something that has been sacred in the history of the world's most successful central bank," said Jones, an economist and author of four books on the Fed. "The central banks that have been successful are those which are independent of political pressures and were free to make the appropriate monetary policy."
Powell's speech came on a day of fast-moving events in the financial world and a sharp escalation in the trade dispute with China that threatens to tip a weakening global economy into recession.
China announced earlier in the day that it will impose new tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. products in retaliation for Trump's latest planned round of import duties.
Trump promptly reacted by declaring on Twitter that he had "hereby ordered" American companies with operations in China "to immediately start looking for" other places in which to do business.