December 24, 2018 / 3:38 PM / 9 months ago

Mnuchin to convene U.S. 'Plunge Protection Team' as markets worry

WASHINGTON, Dec 24 (Reuters) - The Trump administration is arranging a phone call on Monday with top U.S. regulators to discuss financial markets as stocks fell again amid concern about slowing growth, the government shutdown and the independence of the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will host the call with the president’s Working Group on Financial Markets, known colloquially as the “Plunge Protection Team.”

Mnuchin made calls to top U.S. bankers on Sunday and got reassurances that banks were still able to make loans, the Treasury said. U.S. stocks have fallen sharply in recent weeks on concerns over slowing economic growth, with the S&P 500 index on pace for its biggest percentage decline in December since the Great Depression.

U.S. stocks fell at the open in a shortened session on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 1 percent.

Wall Street is also closely following reports that Trump has privately discussed the possibility of firing Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. Mnuchin said on Saturday that Trump told him he had “never suggested firing” Powell.

The meeting of the working group also comes amid a partial government shutdown that began on Saturday following an impasse in Congress over Trump’s demand for more funds for a wall on the border with Mexico. (Reporting by Jason Lange Editing by Alistair Bell and Jonathan Oatis)

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