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Trump’s choice Jerome Powell approved as Federal Reserve head

Donald Trump’s choice for the next head of the US central bank – the world’s most powerful economics job – has been approved by US senators.

Jerome Powell, a multi-millionaire, was backed in a 84-13 vote as chair of the Federal Reserve with support from Republicans and many Democrats.

Mr Powell, who was named as Mr Trump’s nominee in November, is a Republican who is seen to back low interest rates.

Janet Yellen, the current Fed chair, will see her term expire in February.

She was appointed by President Obama in 2014 and has been the first woman to hold the position.

Who is Jerome Powell?

Safe choice for economy?

The appointment marks the end of a decades-long tradition that has seen presidents stick with the Federal Reserve chair who was in charge when they took office.

Mr Powell has served on the Fed’s board since 2012, and is expected to take over when Ms Yellen leaves her post on 3 February.

Among the candidates President Trump was considering, Mr Powell, a 64-year-old lawyer, was seen as a safe choice who would provide continuity for existing US monetary policy, and not rattle markets.

He has been supportive of gradual interest rate rises and of the consensus that the Fed should slowly decrease the asset holdings it gathered as part of its efforts to battle the financial crisis.

Undue influence?

Banking committee chairman Mike Crapo, a Republican, said Mr Powell would be “central to ensuring a safe and sound financial system while supporting a vibrant, growing economy”.

But Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, said the Fed chair needed to be someone who would stand up to Wall Street, adding that Mr Powell was not that person.

There has also been some speculation that President Trump, who has businesses which could benefit from lower interest rates, will attempt to unduly influence Fed decisions.

The Fed last raised interest rates in December by 0.25 basis points, which was the third rate rise in 2017. Mr Powell will now preside over further rate rise decisions, which may not fall in line with President Trump’s interests.

The Trump administration also wants to see some post-financial crisis regulations rolled back – a push from government that Mr Powell will also need to manage.

Growth target

Under Ms Yellen’s stewardship, the US economy has seen its strongest six months of economic activity since 2014.

The latest official figures released in December show that the world’s largest economy grew at an annual rate of 3.2% in the third quarter of 2017. Growth in the previous quarter came in at 3.1%.

At the time, current Fed chair Ms Yellen said the economy, labour market and financial system had grown stronger under her watch.

President Trump’s target for US economic growth has been 3%, but he has also spoken of his desire to see it expand at a rate as high as 6%.

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