Fed chair Jerome Powell ‘fully intends’ to serve out his term even if Mr Trump tries to sack him. (AP: Susan Walsh)
Australian shares are likely to open flat, despite Wall Street hitting record highs on strong expectations the US Federal Reserve will cut interest rates for the first time in a decade.
Market snapshot at 7:50am (AEST):
- ASX SPI futures +0.1pc at 6,635, ASX 200 (Wednesday’s close) +0.4pc at 6,690
- AUD: 69.62 US cents, 55.65 British pence, 61.86 euro cents, 75.48 Japanese yen, $NZ1.05
- US: Dow Jones +0.3pc at 26,860, S&P 500 +0.5pc at 2,993, Nasdaq +0.75pc at 8,203
- Europe: FTSE 100 -0.1pc at 7,531, DAX -0.5pc at 12,373, CAC -0.1pc at 5,568, Euro Stoxx 50 -0.2pc at 3,502
- Commodities: Brent crude +3.9pc at $US66.68/barrel, spot gold +1.5pc at $US1,418.80/ounce, iron ore -0.5pc at $US120.96/tonne
Meanwhile, the Australian dollar has risen to 69.62 US cents due to a weaker greenback.
The US dollar fell after Fed chair Jerome Powell gave a downbeat outlook for the US economy in his closely-watched testimony on monetary policy to Congress.
Essentially, it reinforced the market’s strong expectations that the Fed will cut America’s interest rates at the end of this month.
That boosted the stock market in New York, with the benchmark S&P 500 index rising 0.5 per cent to 2,993 — though it briefly hit 3,000 points at its peak.
The Dow Jones index lifted 0.3 per cent to 26,820.
However, the tech-heavy Nasdaq was the best performer, up 0.75 per cent, thanks to strong gains from Amazon (+1.5pc), Microsoft (+1pc) and Apple (+1pc) shares.
What did Powell say?
The US central bank’s chief said “broad” global weakness was clouding the US economic outlook amid uncertainty about the fallout from the Trump administration’s trade conflicts with China and other nations.
Although the US Government reported strong jobs growth in June, other major economies’ “data have continued to disappoint … across Europe and around Asia, and that continues to weigh,” Mr Powell said.
“Manufacturing, trade and investment are weak all around the world … We have agreed to begin (trade) discussions again with China, and that is a constructive step. It doesn’t remove the uncertainty.”
Despite the currently low US unemployment rate, he said inflation remains “muted” and wage growth is modest.
“We don’t have any evidence for calling this a hot labour market,” Mr Powell told lawmakers in Washington.
“To call something hot we need to see some heat.”
Mr Powell’s semi-annual congressional testimony occurred against the backdrop of US President Donald Trump’s frequent criticism of the Fed — and his demands that the Fed cut interest rates.
The Fed chairman was asked by Representative Maxine Waters, who chairs the committee, if he would “pack up and leave” if the President demanded it.
He replied with a curt “no ma’am … The law clearly gives me a four-year term and I fully intend to serve it”.
The Fed, which hiked rates four times last year, has kept its current benchmark overnight interest rate in a range of between 2.25 and 2.50 per cent since December.
Since a series of Trump trade-related tweets in late May, both investors and the Fed have begun shifting their stance.
Traders are expecting a cut of at least 0.25 percentage points when the Fed concludes its next policy meeting on July 31.