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July 06, 2018

Who has Fed Chair Powell's ear? Lawmakers and bankers

Who has Fed Chair Powell's ear? Lawmakers and bankers
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell holds a news conference in Washington

By Ann Saphir and Jonathan Spicer

SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell spends more time with U.S. lawmakers, White House advisers, and bankers than did his predecessor Janet Yellen, who tended to favor meetings with professors, the Treasury secretary and community advocates.

That is the rough picture that emerges from calendars detailing Powell's first four months on the job, the latest of which was published on the U.S. central bank's website on Friday.

The schedules do not indicate who sought each meeting or what was discussed, but they do suggest who has the Fed chair's ear and offer some hints about his priorities.

The Fed has been assessing the strength of the economy and the risks of inflation as it measures whether to further raise interest rates this year amid concerns that global trade tensions could take a toll on growth. The Trump administration and Congress have cut taxes and raised spending in an effort to boost the economy, but Trump on Friday imposed tariffs on China that spurred China to retaliate in kind.

In the four months through May, Powell had 117 meetings or calls, usually one-on-ones, with non-Fed staff that were not part of his regular duties like attending Group of Seven meetings or regulatory panels. Yellen had 96 such meetings during her first four months, according to a review of the schedules.

Of Powell's meetings, 27 were with members of Congress, split almost equally between Republicans and Democrats. In contrast, in her first four months on the job, Yellen met with seven lawmakers, six of whom were Democrats.

Powell also appears to be keeping an open line to the White House, meeting with President Donald Trump's economic advisers seven times, compared to Yellen's four in the period after she took the helm in 2014.

To be sure, legislation in May that rolled back some financial regulations, as well as relatively quick turnover within Trump's White House, may have drawn particular attention from the Fed chair. The Fed declined to comment.

Powell, a lawyer who worked at private equity firm Carlyle Group (NASDAQ:CG) before becoming a Fed governor in 2012, held 12 meetings with banking executives and financial experts in the first four months and only one with an economics professor: Stanford University's John Taylor, who had also been on Trump's short list to head up the Fed.

Yellen, who holds a doctorate in economics and was a university professor before joining the Fed, had six meetings with bankers and eight with economics professors. She also had four meetings with community advocates, while Powell had one.

The two Fed chairs met frequently with their respective Treasury secretaries, though Yellen booked nine meetings to Powell's six. Powell met international central bankers and other foreign government officials 32 times versus Yellen's 26.

Those meetings show how closely the Fed works with other policymakers both at home and abroad as they try to steer the U.S. economy clear of troubles and toward full employment and 2 percent inflation.

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