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US economic leaders coordinate government’s shutdown functions


Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin led a “check-in” call Monday with President Donald Trump’s Working Group on Financial Markets, as stocks slid further down and a government shutdown continued with no immediate end in sight.

The Christmas Eve call with the group, which has been referred to as the “Plunge Protection Team,” was scheduled to discuss coordinating agencies’ functions during the shutdown, a senior administration official told Members of the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission participated in the call.

The call followed a series of moves by Mnuchin over the weekend aimed at reassuring markets. He also attempted to convey that Trump knows he does not have the authority to fire Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, whom the president has ripped while the central bank raises rates and equities markets sputter.

Read more: Treasury was not concerned about liquidity when Mnuchin called banks: Senior official

Yet Trump continued railing against the Fed in a tweet Monday, tying the central bank to a slew of other economic and political issues roiling his administration.

“The only problem our economy has is the Fed,” Trump wrote. “They don’t have a feel for the Market, they don’t understand necessary Trade Wars or Strong Dollars or even Democrat Shutdowns over Borders.”

“The Fed is like a powerful golfer who can’t score because he has no touch — he can’t putt!” Trump added.

Trump had excoriated Powell ahead of the latest quarter-point increase in interest rates last week.

The Fed also lowered its 2019 forecast to just two more rate hikes.

Bloomberg News, citing four sources familiar with the situation, reported that Trump had privately discussed firing Powell in recent months. Other outlets soon matched with their own reporting. The frequency of those conversations increased in line with the president’s frustrations with the Fed following the latest rate hike, according to reports.

In a pair of tweets Saturday, Mnuchin quoted the president as saying he “never suggested firing Chairman Jay Powell, nor do I believe I have the right to do so.”

Still, Trump said he believes the Fed’s rate hikes were an “absolute terrible thing to do at this time,” according to Mnuchin’s tweets.

On Sunday, Mnuchin held calls with the leaders of the six largest U.S. banks, after which he said in a statement that “the banks all confirmed ample liquidity is available for lending to consumer and business markets.”

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