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New policies coming to America could take weight off Fed: Powell

By Jason Lange

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A push by Washington for more business-friendly regulation and fiscal support for the economy could improve America's mix of policies which in recent years have relied too much on the Federal Reserve, Fed Governor Jerome Powell said.

Powell, speaking on Saturday at a conference, did not mention the incoming Trump administration by name but his comments suggest some Trump policies will be welcomed by U.S. central bankers who have been urging other institutions to do more to help the economy.

"We may be moving more to a more balanced policy with what sounds like more business-friendly regulation and possibly more fiscal support," Powell told an economics conference in Chicago.

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President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, has promised to double America's pace of economic growth, "rebuild" its infrastructure and slash regulatory burdens.

About half of the Fed's 17 policymakers factored a fiscal stimulus into their economic forecasts published in December, according to minutes from the Fed's December policy meeting.

That expected stimulus has led several policymakers to say the Fed will likely raise rates more quickly, but Powell said new policies could also ease the Fed's burden.

"Monetary policy (might be) able to hand it off and I think that's a healthier thing," he said. "We may be moving to a more balanced policy mix."

Following a Congress-enacted fiscal stimulus during and immediately after the 2007-09 recession, the Fed in recent years has been widely seen as the economic authority working the hardest to help the economy.

But throughout 2016, Fed policymakers worried publicly that the U.S. economy was stuck in a low growth path and central banking tools could do little to fix this. Central bankers urged Congress and the U.S. president to pass laws that would help make U.S. businesses and workers more productive.

Fed officials say they still do not know much about how the new administration will change policy. Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said on Friday some new policies could help economic growth and others might slow it down.

"Be careful what you wish for," Kaplan said.

Minneapolis Fed President Neil Kashkari, also speaking in Chicago on Saturday, said some banking regulations could tighten under Trump in order to prevent future bailouts.

The U.S. labor market is widely viewed as close to full strength and inflation has shown signs of moving closer to the Fed's 2 percent target. Powell said there appeared to be higher chances the U.S. economy could outperform expectations.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

 
 
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