Central bank is United States economy's 'only problem'

Wall Street is closely following reports that Mr Donald Trump has discussed firing Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Mr Trump told him he had never suggested this

Central bank is United States economy's 'only problem'

"When you see it and investors look at it, I don't think they're going to view it as: 'Oh, this is the saving grace of what's going to cause the catalyst to turn markets around"'.

The S&P 500 index slid 65.52 points Monday, or 2.7 percent, to 2,351.10. At $173 a share, consensus estimates for S&P 500 earnings in 2019 are down marginally from a few months ago, but still represent an increase of 35 percent from previous year - not the sort of profit performance usually associated with big declines in equities.

FILE - In this December 3, 2018, file photo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talks with reporters at the White House, in Washington.

"The only problem our economy has is the Fed", the president wrote, suggesting the Fed's role is to prop up the markets to support his policy agenda. He's chosen people who don't agree with him about monetary policy, which is kind of remarkable. "He also confirmed that they have not experienced any clearance or margin issues, and that the markets continue to function properly".

The major bank CEOs who spoke by phone with Mnuchin were "totally baffled" by the session, according to a person familiar with the call. US markets are due to reopen for trading on Wednesday.

In his statement Sunday, Mnuchin assured the public that the economy is doing well.

The unusual statement by Mnuchin on Sunday about his conversation with the banks and plans to convene the so-called Plunge Protection Team "was not especially comforting, however, given that investors had not generally been questioning market functioning in recent days, despite large declines", Nick Bennenbroek, currency strategist at Wells Fargo in NY, wrote in a note to clients.

Battered and bruised for three months, a bull market whose durability has exceeded all others lurched within a few points of its demise on Christmas Eve, extending one of the roughest stretches for equities since the financial crisis. "We've never seen anything like this full-blown and full-frontal assault".

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is attempting to boost confidence in the US financial system. Barring huge gains during the upcoming holiday period, this will be the worst December for stocks since 1931. The S&P and Dow are also not far off those levels, having sunk 17.5 percent and 16.3 percent, respectively, as of Friday from their closing highs.

After another brutal day on Monday, the Dow is 18.8%, or 5,036 points, off its peak reached on September 20.

The stock market is on track for its worst year in a decade, with many sectors down more than 20 per cent - technically a bear market.

Utilities and energy shares were the biggest drags Monday, with energy stocks under pressure from a 35 percent decline in oil prices since October.

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.

The only shred of good news Monday came when China said it plans to remove import and export tariffs in 2019 on a range of goods, including import taxes on alternative meals used in animal feed, to secure supplies of raw materials amid trade tensions with the United States and boosting outbound cargoes.

While claims of an economic slow down or even a recession have been discussed by the mainstream media lately, the Trump administration has pushed back.

The stock selloff in part reflects concern about a looming slowdown in economic growth.

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