US President Donald Trump has expressed confidence in Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin amid a US stock market slump, but has again criticised interest rate rises.
Speaking from the Oval Office after a Christmas video conference with US troops abroad, Trump also said American companies were ‘the greatest in the world’ and presented a ‘tremendous’ buying opportunity.
Trump said he had confidence in Mnuchin, a ‘very talented guy’ and a ‘very smart person’.
His comments on Tuesday came after Mnuchin held a conference call with US regulators on Monday to discuss plunging US stock markets.
The call did more to rattle markets than to assure them.
All three major US stock indexes ended down more than 2 per cent on the day before the Christmas holiday.
The S&P 500 has lost about 19.8 per cent from its September 20 closing high, just shy of the 20 per cent threshold that commonly defines a bear market.
On Tuesday, Trump praised US companies and said their lower stock prices present an opportunity for investors.
‘I have great confidence in our companies. We have companies, the greatest in the world, and they’re doing really well,’ he said.
‘They have record kinds of numbers. So I think it’s a tremendous opportunity to buy.’
US stocks have dropped sharply in recent weeks on concerns over weaker economic growth.
Trump has largely laid the blame for economic headwinds on the Fed, openly criticising its chairman, Jerome Powell, whom he appointed.
‘They’re raising interest rates too fast because they think the economy is so good,’ Trump said, repeating his criticism.
‘But I think that they will get it pretty soon.’
Media reports have suggested Trump has gone as far as discussing firing Powell, and he told Reuters in August that he was ‘not thrilled’ with the chairman.
On Monday, Trump said, ‘the only problem our economy has is the Fed’.
The Fed hiked interest rates again last week, as had been widely expected.