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Fed Chair Powell says economy about to grow much quicker due to vaccinations and fiscal support

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testifies before the Senate Banking Committee hearing on “The Quarterly CARES Act Report to Congress” on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 1, 2020.

Susan Walsh | Pool | Reuters

The U.S. economy is at a turning point thanks to government support and a speedy campaign to inoculate Americans against Covid-19, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said in a new interview.

“What we’re seeing now is really an economy that seems to be at an inflection point,” Powell told Scott Pelley during an interview that will air Sunday evening on CBS News’ “60 Minutes.” CBS released a portion of the interview earlier Sunday.

“We feel like we’re at a place where the economy’s about to start growing much more quickly and job creation coming in much more quickly,” Powell said. “So the principal risk to our economy right now really is that the disease would spread again. It’s going to be smart if people can continue to socially distance and wear masks.”

Powell’s comments come as U.S. stock indices are at record levels thanks in part to optimism about the reopening of the economy. Investors will be watching closely next week as earnings season kicks off and company leaders issue forecasts for the coming year.

The nationwide vaccination drive has been speeding up in recent weeks, with nearly every state making all adults over 16 years old eligible for shots.

About 183 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the U.S., according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Nearly half the country’s adult population, and almost 80% of those 65 and older, have received at least one dose, CDC data shows.

Powell, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, has been one of the key figures in the federal government overseeing the nation’s response to the financial distress caused by the pandemic.

The Federal Reserve slashed its benchmark rate to near zero in March of 2020 and deployed massive emergency lending programs. Powell has said the Fed is unlikely to raise rates until the economy is essentially fully healed, even if inflation rises moderately above its 2% target.

Powell has also been supportive of aggressive federal spending programs implemented under both Trump and President Joe Biden to stem the worst impacts of the public health crisis.

The full interview with Powell will air on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET.

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