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Fed in ‘no hurry’ to change interest levels again: Powell

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US central bank in 'no hurry' to change current rate level

WASHINGTON Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said the US central bank does "not feel any hurry" to change the level of interest rates again as it watches how a slowing global economy affects conditions in the country.

Rates are currently "appropriate", Mr Powell said in an interview with CBS' 60 Minutes in which he also called the current rate level "roughly neutral", meaning it is neither stimulating or curbing the economy.

Economic slowdown in China and Europe, and other global issues pose the largest risks to an otherwise healthy US outlook, he said, though he felt "very negative outcomes" were not likely.

The interview - roughly eight years after former chair Ben Bernanke appeared on the show to discuss the Fed's aggressive actions during the 2007 to 2009 recession - crossed a range of issues, including the health of the financial system, the opioid crisis and US President Donald Trump's aggressive criticism of rate hikes.

Mr Powell vouched for the health and safety of an economy and banking system that have rebounded in many ways, with unemployment at record lows and banks better capitalised.

But "our system is vastly more resilient and strong than it was before the financial crisis", though he said risks from cyber attack remain a major concern.

"The business cycle has not been repealed. But I would say there is no reason why this economy can't continue to expand."

Mr Powell said there was little evidence of the overextended market valuations former Fed chair Alan Greenspan labelled "irrational exuberance".

Credit spreads, stock market measures and other financial market indicators are running close to longer-run levels.

Mr Powell said it would not be "appropriate" for him to comment directly on Mr Trump's remarks, which included calling the Fed "crazy" for raising interest rates four times last year.

The target federal funds rate, at a range of between 2.25 per cent and 2.5 per cent, remain low by historical standards.

But he did say he did not think Mr Trump, by law, had the power to fire him over a policy dispute. Though the Fed recently shifted to a "patient" approach with interest rates on hold, he said that had nothing to do with Mr Trump.

The Fed would "never, ever" take "political considerations" into account in deciding on interest rates. - REUTERS