Dow falls by 600 points after Fed Chair Powell says he'd like to speed up tapering

Citing a "very strong economy," Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said he was considering withdrawing the central bank's support at an even faster pace.

Wall Street stumbled on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling by more than 600 points after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said he was considering withdrawing support for the economy at an even faster pace.

The Fed chief’s comments come amid already-heightened investor concerns about the omicron variant of the coronavirus that sparked the biggest market selloff this year, on Black Friday.

All three major averages fell to session lows Tuesday after Powell told the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs that in light of a “very strong” economy, “it is therefore appropriate in my view to consider wrapping up the taper of our asset purchases … perhaps a few months sooner.”

The Federal Open Market Committee, the central bank’s policymaking arm, next meets on Dec. 14-15. After the group’s last meeting, Powell announced that the Fed would start to taper its asset purchases in December. Those purchases represent one of the central bank’s biggest interventions undertaken in the wake of the pandemic. 

Since June 2020, the central bank has been purchasing $120 billion in bonds — $80 billion in Treasuries and $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities — every month to add liquidity and keep the financial system working efficiently.

Powell’s comments indicate a shift in outlook for the Fed, which has insisted for months that inflationary pressures are “transitory.” Powell acknowledged on Tuesday that it was time to “retire” that word, and noted that supply-side pressures — shipping and logistics snarls that have slowed global growth — had been greater than expected.

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