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Trump slams 'pathetic' Fed as US manufacturing index sinks to decade low

Javier E. David
·Editor focused on markets and the economy
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President Donald Trump hammered the Federal Reserve in a new tirade on Tuesday, blaming the central bank’s policy for creating a strong currency — and weakness in the manufacturing sector that drove a key index to its lowest read since the great recession.

The Institute for Supply Management reported that its index of manufacturing industry tumbled deeper into contraction last month, slipping to its weakest since June 2009. The figure fell well short of a Bloomberg consensus forecast that estimated a rise from August’s 49.1 reading, and sent the stock market reeling.

The data — in which respondents cited the U.S. China trade war as the overriding factor behind depressed hiring and business activity — sparked the president’s ire, who blistered the Fed anew for not moving fast enough to lower rates. Trump has repeatedly savaged the central bank and Fed Chair Jerome Powell — and did so again on Tuesday for being “pathetic” in its response to the economic slowdown.

‘Tariffed our way into recession’

The movement of the ISM data from 2013-2019.
The movement of the ISM data from 2013-2019.

Wall Street economists —and the ISM survey respondents — cite the U.S.-China trade conflict as the proximate cause of the manufacturing sector’s woes. The report stated that “global trade remains the most significant issue, as demonstrated by the contraction in new export orders that began in July 2019. Overall, sentiment this month remains cautious regarding near-term growth."

Across a range of sectors, the ISM’s participants have blamed slower conditions on the after-effects of hundreds of billions of dollars worth of tariffs and retaliatory charges imposed by the world’s two largest economies on each other’s goods.

Central to the president’s critique of the Fed is his belief that the central bank should be helping him “win” against China, using monetary policy as a lever to offset the effects of higher tariffs and a dollar that’s been bolstered by safe-haven buying.

Yet market veterans such as Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer of Bleakley Advisory Group, have sharply criticized Trump’s mercantilistic trade policies that embrace tariffs as a bargaining strategy.

“Bottom line, we have now tariffed our way into a manufacturing recession in the US and globally,” Boockvar said, asking what the exit strategy is with no end in sight to the standoff.

“Sorry to have to say this again but using tariffs as the tool to push back against China was a really dumb idea and history will not look kind upon the strategy,” he added.

In a research note to clients, Deutsche Bank’s Torsten Slok wrote the ISM read was “serious” and warned that “there is no end in sight to this slowdown, the recession risk is real.”

Javier David is an editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow Javier on Twitter: @TeflonGeek

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