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Trump blasts US central bank again over rate hikes

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Mr Trump told reporters following his annual Christmas teleconference with American troops: "They (the Fed policymakers) are raising rates too fast because they think the economy is so good."

Washington

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump on Tuesday renewed his attack on the US Federal Reserve's monetary policy, blaming the central bank's interest rate hikes for a tanking market.

With stocks on track for their worst December since the Great Depression, Mr Trump has regularly berated the Fed for its stewardship of the economy.

"They are raising rates too fast because they think the economy is so good," Mr Trump told reporters following his annual Christmas teleconference with American troops.

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"But I think they will get it pretty soon," added the president, who has dubbed the supposedly independent central bank "crazy" and "out of control".

Mr Trump's comments came after Asian markets suffered a holiday rout on fears about the US economy and an ongoing government shutdown in Washington that began last Saturday. Closed on Monday for a national holiday, Tokyo plummeted at the open on Tuesday, suffering its worst finish since April 2017 after a brutal holiday-shortened session on Wall Street that saw US stocks sink for a fourth straight session.

Markets have been roiled by ongoing uncertainty in the US, with Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin berated for holding a call with the six biggest US banks and then reporting on Twitter that the six CEOs have "ample liquidity" available.

Investors were also unnerved by weekend news reports that Mr Trump had asked about the possibility of firing Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell, accounts that Mr Mnuchin said Mr Trump has denied.

Mr Trump last week called the Fed a greater economic threat to the US than China, and on Monday compared the central bank to a sloppy golfer. Asked by reporters whether he had confidence in Mr Mnuchin, Mr Trump answered "yes I do", calling the treasury chief "very talented, very smart person".

Mr Trump said he also remained confident in American companies and urged investors to stay calm over the nosediving markets. "I have great confidence in our companies. They are doing very well," he noted. "I think it's a tremendous opportunity to buy."

The stock market malaise comes with Mr Trump refusing to sign a budget bill to keep the government funded as he demands money for a US-Mexico border wall.

Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at Oanda, said Mr Trump's spat with the Fed and Mr Mnuchin's call with the banks had "markets running for cover". AFP