U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told Congress Tuesday in a testimony that the central bank will be "taking a patient approach" in determining future changes in monetary policy.
The central bank, Powell said, will be "taking a patient approach with regard to future policy changes." He said policy decisions "will continue to be data dependent and will take into account new information as economic conditions and the outlook evolve."
In his testimony to the Senate Banking Committee, the central bank chief said the current target range for the federal funds rate is at 2.25 percent to 2.50 percent, adding that the Fed "would be paying close attention to global economic and financial developments and assessing their implications for the outlook."
Powell also talked about the Fed's effort to gradually shrink the size of its balance sheet by reducing the holdings of Treasury and agency securities.
"The Federal Reserve's total assets declined about 310 billion dollars since the middle of last year and currently stand at close to 4.0 trillion dollars," Powell said. "Relative to their peak level in 2014, banks' reserve balances with the Federal Reserve have declined by around 1.2 trillion dollars, a drop of more than 40 percent."
He said the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the Fed's policy-making body, "can now evaluate the appropriate timing and approach for the end of balance sheet runoff."
"I would note that we are prepared to adjust any of the details for completing balance sheet normalization in light of economic and financial developments," Powell said, adding that in the longer run, the size of the balance sheet will be determined by the demand for Federal Reserve liabilities such as currency and bank reserves.
With regard to the overall performance of the U.S. economy, Powell told the lawmakers that the gross domestic production is estimated to have risen a little less than 3 percent in 2018, and that the overall consumer price inflation is estimated to have been 1.7 percent in December, which is below the Fed's 2 percent target.
"The economy grew at a strong pace, on balance, last year, and employment and inflation remain close to the Federal Reserve's statutory goals of maximum employment and stable prices," the central banker said.
While saying the Fed viewed the current economic conditions as healthy and the outlook as favorable, Powell also cautioned "some crosscurrents and conflicting signals" over the past few months.
Among these factors are financial markets becoming more volatile toward year-end, financial conditions proven less supportive of growth than they were earlier last year, as well as slowing growth in some major economies, according to Powell. "We will carefully monitor these issues as they evolve."
The United States, Powell warned, faces "important longer-run challenges." He said the nation's productivity growth "has been too low," and labor force participation among prime-age men and women is "lower than in most other advanced economies."
Other longer-run trends range from relatively stagnant incomes for many families and a lack of upward economic mobility among people with lower incomes, to a "widely agreed" fact that the federal government debt is on an unsustainable path, the central bank chief said.
"As a nation, addressing these pressing issues could contribute greatly to the longer-run health and vitality of the U.S. economy," Powell said.
Powell will testify before the House of Representatives on Wednesday.