Powell sets record for shortest quarterly news conference by Fed chair

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell set a record on Wednesday, after the U.S. central bank delivered a widely-expected interest rate hike, by holding the briefest quarterly news conference since the Fed began giving them in April 2011.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell speaks at a news conference following the Federal Open Market Committee meetings in Washington, U.S., March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Powell, who took the helm at the U.S. central bank in February, gave the Fed’s views and took reporters’ questions for 43 minutes, according to a video posted on the YouTube page of the Fed’s Board of Governors.

His predecessor Janet Yellen, Fed chair from 2014 until January, made appearances lasting about 58 minutes on average during her 16 new conferences, Reuters found in a review of the videos on the Fed’s YouTube page.

Powell showed a business-like approach that contrasted with the more academic style favored by Yellen, said Nathan Sheets, a former Fed economist now at PGIM Fixed Income in Newark, New Jersey.

“When she took these questions, she answered them in extremely exhaustive ways,” said Sheets. “Powell’s approach was much more giving what he saw as the most pertinent information.”

Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke began the practice of holding regular news conferences in April 2011, when the U.S. economy was still struggling to gather momentum after the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

The news conferences have been seen as a tool for the Fed to more effectively communicate its expectations on the economic outlook. If investors have a better sense of what developments might change the outlook for monetary policy, that could help give the Fed better control over interest rates.

Bernanke’s 11 news conferences lasted about 57 minutes on average, according to information posted on the Fed Board’s YouTube page.

Bernanke, who like Yellen was a PhD economist with a background in academia, held the second-briefest quarterly news conference so far at 45 minutes.

Powell’s career before the Fed included roles in investment banking and on corporate boards. He was a managing partner at the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. Powell was also a senior official at the Treasury Department during former President George H.W. Bush’s administration.

Powell said he would be “carefully considering” doing more press conferences, adding that while he and his colleagues want to communicate as clearly as possible, he wanted to “make sure that no one would take more frequent press conferences as a signal of the path of policy.”

Some analysts said that is exactly how markets would take it, given that since the Fed began raising rates in 2015, it has only done so at meetings when the Fed’s leader was scheduled to speak. The Fed meets eight times a year.

Reporting by Jason Lange in Washington and Ann Saphir in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir in Washington and Megan Davies in New York; Editing by Tom Brown