Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell suggested Thursday (Jan. 10) the central bank is likely to lower its forecast from two interest rate hikes this year amid volatile financial markets and a slowing U.S. and global economy.

“During the year, we’ll look at (the economy) and tighter financial conditions and we’ll also lower our rate path” and monitor the effects of that on the economy and markets, Powell said in an interview at the Economic Club of Washington D.C. He stressed the Fed has made no decisions about the pace of rate increases this year and will respond to the economy as it evolves, saying officials will be “flexible.”

USA Today reported that Powell’s remarks largely echoed his assertion at a forum in Atlanta last week that the Fed “will be patient” as it weighs future rate hikes – a message that has  helped drive stocks higher. On Thursday, he appeared to more explicitly indicate that Fed policymakers could lower their rate-hike forecast if markets continue to be turbulent and the economy slows more than anticipated.

Fed policymakers’ estimate of two rate increases this year “was contingent on a really strong outlook for 2018,” Powell said. While he said that may still happen, he added, “We can be patient and wait and see what does evolve,” noting that inflation has been modest.

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