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US Central Bank Head Signals Imminent Interest Rate Cuts

FILE - Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell speaks at a news conference following a two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, May 1, 2019, in Washington.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is suggesting short-term interest rates could soon be cut as the global economy weakens and concerns persist over trade policy.

As he delivered the Fed's semi-annual monetary report to Congress Wednesday, Powell signaled the central bank might cut interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade.

Powell said "uncertainties around trade tensions and concerns about the strength of the global economy continue to weigh on the U.S. economic outlook."

He told the House Financial Services Committee the cuts could come when Fed officials meet later this month.

Powell said while the U.S. labor market remains strong and consumer spending has been stable, the business investment growth rate has "slowed notably."

He also noted that slower growth by some large foreign economies "could affect the U.S. economy."

The Fed's benchmark rate is currently in a range of 2.25% and 2.5% and some market observers predict the central bank will cut it by a quarter percentage point.

Trump, who is relying on a strong economy to help propel him to a second term in office next year, has called the Fed his biggest threat. Trump attacked the Fed when it increased rates four times last year, arguing they dampened U.S. economic growth and depressed the stock market.

Powell did not mention Trump's criticism as he delivered his prepared remarks, but he did thank lawmakers for the operational "independence" it has given to the Fed.

The Fed cuts interest rates when it determines there is a need to stimulate economic growth through lower financing costs, which can spark more borrowing and investing.