The Fed: Powell says Fed ‘will remain alert’ to any financial stability risks

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Senior economics reporter

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell

New Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday said the central bank “will remain alert” to any risks to financial stability, marking his maiden attempt to soothe financial markets.

In brief prepared remarks at his swearing-in ceremony, Powell reminded the audience that Washington made enormous strides in its effort to strengthen the banking sector in the wake of the financial crisis.

“The financial system is incomparably stronger and safer, with much higher capital and liquidity, better risk management, and other improvements,” Powell said.

The new Fed chairman has had a busy 10 days in office. Stock prices SPX, +0.23%   have gyrated, and analysts are debating whether there will be a “Powell put” to calm the market’s frayed nerves.

Read: A ‘Powell put’ for the stock market? Don’t even think about it

In his speech, Powell projected a steady-as-she-goes approach.

“While the challenges we face are always evolving, the Fed’s approach will remain the same,” he said.

He noted that the global economy “is recovering strongly for the first time in a decade.”

“We are in the process of gradually normalizing both interest rate policy and our balance sheet with a view to extending the recovery and sustaining the pursuit of our objectives,” Powell said.

Powell said he would pursue interest rate policy “without concern for short-term political pressures.” Analysts have speculated about the pressure President Donald Trump may put on the Fed, particularly if the economy softens.

Powell said the Fed would not eliminate the regulations put in place since the crisis but may loosen them.

“We will…preserve the essential gains in financial regulation while seeking to ensure that our policies are as efficient as possible,” he said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.23%  were slightly higher in afternoon trading after opening 160 points lower.

Powell’s comments had little discernible impact on the markets.

Earlier Tuesday, Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester said the stock market’s steep decline over the past 10 days is not affecting the U.S. economic outlook.

Read: Fed’s Mester: Economy will ‘work through this episode of market turbulence’

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