President Donald Trump on Wednesday called for the Federal Reserve to engineer interest rates to zero “or less,” in a new appeal for negative yields that he believes would help the U.S. curb its borrowing costs and stimulate growth.
Via Twitter, the president continued his campaign of lashing out at the Fed’s monetary policy. With the world economy sandbagged by the downside risks of the U.S.-China trade war, Trump called the central bank “boneheads” for missing out on “a once in a lifetime opportunity” presented by historically low yields.
The Federal Reserve should get our interest rates down to ZERO, or less, and we should then start to refinance our debt. INTEREST COST COULD BE BROUGHT WAY DOWN, while at the same time substantially lengthening the term. We have the great currency, power, and balance sheet.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 11, 2019
Trump reiterated his frustrations with Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, who he believes has not been aggressive enough in easing monetary policy in the face of a global slowdown.
The concept of negative rates is attractive in theory, but economists say the effects are far less appealing in reality. While it makes the risk of default virtually nil, negative-yielding global debt —currently estimated at $16 trillion — is bad for savers and erodes bank profitability.
It also underscored the president’s growing fascination with negative rates, a condition where investors have sacrificed yield for safety by paying the bond issuer.
“As a highly-leveraged property developer, Trump is thinking about negative rates from the perspective of a borrower,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics on Wednesday.
However, “the Fed’s lukewarm appetite for negative rates is partly because officials know that it could cause outrage among savers and drag the central bank into a political maelstrom,” Ashworth added.
As yields on safe-haven government debt collapse globally — largely because of fears over the economy and expected central bank easing — borrowing costs have dropped sharply.
In fact, the Congressional Budget Office said last month that the federal government’s savings on borrowing costs translated into a $1.1 trillion net reduction in the CBO’s projections over the following 10 years, even as deficit spending surges.