US economic growth to continue, Trump officials assert


WASHINGTON

President Donald Trump's top economic policymakers insisted Sunday that the robust growth marked in the April-June quarter will maintain its pace and that he respects the Federal Reserve's independence despite his condemnation of the central bank for raising interest rates.

"We as an administration absolutely support the independence of the Fed, and the president has made it clear that this is the Fed's decision," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told "Fox News Sunday." He said Trump's critical statements "are really more just comments saying as interest rates are going up, it's something that the president has a concern" about.

The Fed isn't expected to announce a rate increase when its latest policy meeting ends Wednesday. But the central bank is widely anticipated to set the stage for tightening credit again in September for a third time this year and then to likely raise rates again by December. The Fed has raised rates twice this year in response to strong growth, low unemployment and a slight rise in inflation.

Trump has taken credit for that growth, and this week he criticized the recent rate increases, warning that they could slow the economy's advance. Criticism of interest rate hikes by the Fed, which is politically independent from the White House and administration, is something no president has expressed publicly in more than two decades.

"I don't like all of this work we are putting into the economy, and then I see rates going up," Trump said.

The rate increases are intended to prevent the economy from overheating or inflation from accelerating too sharply. But higher rates make borrowing for homes, autos and credit cards more expensive — an unpopular consequence for consumers.

"The market expects interest rates to keep going up," Mnuchin said. "So the only question is how far and for how long? And we think the Fed will be very careful in managing the economy."

The latest snapshot of the economy issued by the government Friday showed an energetic 4.1 percent annual growth rate in the second quarter, the fastest pace in nearly four years.

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