Fed’s Lael Brainard says she wants to wait and see how economy is doing before moving rates again

Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard said Wednesday she wants to see how the U.S. economy is performing before making changes to the central bank’s current stance on monetary policy. 

“The committee has a pretty substantial adjustment in the path of rates over the past few meetings,” Brainard told CNBC’s Steve Liesman on “Squawk on the Street.” “It will take some time to see that work through the economy, so I certainly want to monitor and assess how the economy is reacting to those cuts.”

The adjustment Brainard refers to is the three rate cuts by the U.S. central bank this year. Those rate cuts followed four rate hikes in 2018, the last of which contributed to a massive sell-off in U.S. stocks. 

The Fed’s most-recent rate cut came in October. Back then, Chairman Jerome Powell raised the bar for further rate cuts but noted the Fed remains a long way from hiking rates any time soon. 

Brainard noted residential investments have improved since the Fed started easing again, but reiterated she wants to “wait for a little bit” before the central bank makes changes as she assesses how “the outlook is adjusting.”

One of the factors Brainard is accounting for in her outlook is the status of U.S.-China trade relations, she said. Both countries have been engaged in a trade war for nearly two years. Back in October, President Donald Trump said a so-called phase one deal would be signed this month. However, there are reports saying the negotiations could hit an impasse. 

“We’ve taken out some insurance against that, but we still hear from our business contacts that they’re sitting on the sideline waiting for some of this uncertainty to be resolved,” said Brainard. “I don’t think the expectation is for a major deal, but even a truce would be a significant reduction in uncertainty for a lot of businesses around the country that are sitting on the sidelines in terms of investment.”

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