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Fed chairman will bring a sober message to Capitol Hill on economy

WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell will deliver a cautionary message about the economy and COVID-19 when he appears twice this week on Capitol Hill.

His remarks to lawmakers are widely expected to echo the mostly downbeat assessment he gave June 10 after policy makers held interest rates near zero and signaled they’d probably stay there through 2022. His performance, which highlighted the hardships faced by millions of Americans who’ve lost work, drew criticism from a White House official for being overly negative.

“I can’t see him straying from that message,” said Jennifer Lee, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets. “If he changes his tune in any way, people are going to be jumping all over it. Democrats will accuse him of bending to the political will of others.”

Powell will testify via video at 10 a.m. time Tuesday before the Senate Banking Committee and at noon Wednesday to the House Financial Services Committee. The appearances are tied to the Fed’s semi-annual monetary policy report to Congress, published Friday.

With the US economy beginning to emerge from pandemic-provoked shutdowns and despite recent economic data offering some surprisingly bright points, Powell last week emphasized how many Americans are out of work and […]

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