Mnuchin denies Trump is seeking to oust Fed chief

Federal Reserve raises interest rates, signals fewer hikes ahead

Reports saying that Trump had mulled firing Jerome Powell several times this week sparked worry about a further dramatic selloff in markets. "I'm doing so as enthusiastically as I can, given the fact that I think he's a bad human being". The Senate would have to confirm a replacement, and many lawmakers have stated that they believe in the independence of the Fed and support Powell.

Powell has met with Sherrod Brown - the ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, which oversees the Fed - five times. And since February he's met individually with every Republican banking panel member except Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey and North Carolina's Thom Tillis, calendars show.

"What the President fails to understand is that monetary policy should be separate from politics", Warner said in a statement. "But I believe we'd see a strong negative reaction in markets if the president did in fact fire Powell since that sends a message that the Fed is no longer independent or apolitical".

Republican Representative Dennis Ross of Florida said many of his GOP colleagues are already disturbed by Defense Secretary James Mattis's exit, and to now be anxious about Powell only aggravates their concerns.

Munchin insisted Trump never even suggested firing Powell, in a series of tweets supposedly quoting the president on Saturday.

Powell, chosen by Trump for the job, took over the key post for a four-year term at the helm of the USA central bank in February, replacing Janet Yellen.

Any attempt by Trump to push out Powell would have potentially devastating ripple effects across financial markets, undermining investors' confidence in the central bank's ability to shepherd the economy without political interference. The most recent trigger for selling has been the march to a partial federal shutdown that started on Saturday, tied to Trump's hoped-for border wall with Mexico.

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"Were he to try, markets would erupt", said Nick Sargen, chief economist with Fort Washington Investment Advisors in Cincinnati, Ohio. The benchmark S&P 500 index is down 9.6 percent for 2018 to date.

Trump has regularly violated that decades-old norm, sending tweets and giving interviews critical of Fed policy tightening.

It was unclear if Trump has the authority to fire him, according to United States media. The Federal Reserve Act says governors may be "removed for cause by the President". The Fed also signaled that it will only raise rates twice in 2019.

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Sunday echoed the comments of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that Donald Trump doesn't think the US president has the authority to fire the head of the Federal Reserve.

On December 18, Trump warned the Fed not to make "yet another mistake" by raising interest rates, the second consecutive day he has gone after the central bank on Twitter.

Jerome Powell's former Federal Open Market Committee vice chairman has some advice for the leader of the USA central-bank should the White House try to sack him: for the sake of the institution, don't leave. Earlier, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said she doesn't know of a plan to fire Powell.

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