Federal Reserve Powell

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell speaks at a conference, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019, in Atlanta. Powell said that he will not resign if asked to do so by President Donald Trump, a message that heartened investors who had been concerned by Trump's repeated attacks on his hand-picked choice to lead the nation's central bank. (AP Photo/Annie Rice)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Friday that he will not resign if asked to do so by President Donald Trump, and that he is prepared to be patient in deciding when to raise interest rates again.

Both of those messages cheered stock market investors, who had been worried about Trump’s repeated attacks on his hand-picked choice to lead the nation’s central bank and also the Fed’s seemingly inexorable march to higher rates.

“There is no preset path for policy,” Powell said during an appearance at a conference of economists in Atlanta. “With the muted inflation readings we have seen coming in, we will be patient as we watch to see how the economy evolves.”

Trump has complained that the Fed has pushed rates higher despite the fact that there is no evidence that inflation was

getting out of control.

The president’s attacks had become so intense that they had raised concerns that he might be considering firing Powell, a development which could send the market into a tailspin.

Asked if he would resign if Trump asked him to do so, Powell responded with a short “no.”

Powell’s willingness to be flexible on interest rates was welcome news to investors, many of whom worried that Fed chair risked cutting off the current economic expansion by continuing to raise interest rates despite signs the U.S. economy was cooling off a little.

On Friday, Powell said, “We are always prepared to shift the stance of policy and to shift it significantly if necessary” to meet the goals of maximum employment and stable prices.

The pace of Fed rate hikes and the lowering of the balance sheet had both been concerns of investors in recent months.

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