Wall Street surges on strong jobs report, dovish Powell comments


Powell's Fed hiked rates four times previous year and projections from its December 19 meeting show officials expect two more hikes in 2019.

Both of those messages cheered stock market investors who had been anxious about Trump's repeated attacks on his hand-picked choice to lead the nation's central bank and also the Fed's seemingly inexorable march to higher rates.

There is "no pre-set path for policy and particularly with the muted inflation themes coming in we will be patient as we see how the economy evolves", Mr Powell said.

The next meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee is set for January 29-30, and Powell plans to hold a press conference after that gathering as he will after each FOMC meeting going forward.

Powell told Reuters that he has not received any direct communication from the White House about his job performance, nor has Trump requested a meeting.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 746.94 points (3.29 per cent) to end the week at 23,433.16.

The president has accused Powell of hurting the economy by raising interest rates.

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The Fed chairman, responding to a question about what he would do if Trump asked him to step down, said he would not resign.

Trump has slammed Powell for rate hikes, meant to keep the economy from overheating, and last month polled advisers about whether he could fire the Fed chief, according to multiple reports. Fed watchers have said that the bar is very high for the president to remove Powell "for cause" as the law appears to require, provided Powell decides to fight the dismissal in court.

"We are always prepared to shift the stance of policy and to shift it significantly" if needed, Powell said, speaking on a panel alongside former Fed chiefs Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke.

Although still low by historical standards, this latest hike put interest rates at the highest level in almost a decade.

The Labor Department reported on Friday that 312,000 jobs were created last month, well above market expectations.

The Fed's tightening cycle includes both rate hikes and the gradual shedding of its more than $4 trillion in assets.

Compared to comments he made after the Fed raised rates last month, "it's not that he's changed his message ... but that he explained it more patiently and in greater detail", said Lou Brien, market strategist at DRW Trading in Chicago.