WRAPUP 2-Powell tells markets Fed is flexible and aware of risks

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Early Friday, the Labor Department said that us employers added the most workers in 10 months as wage gains accelerated and labor-force participation jumped, suggesting the underlying economy is holding up amid falling stock prices.

Powell "said exactly what the markets wanted to hear", said Gregori Volokhine of Meeschaert Financial Services.

US President Donald Trump has been one of the loudest critics of the rising rates, which raise the cost of borrowing and risk dampening economic growth.

The major US stock indexes finished sharply higher on Friday on the back of two key bullish events.

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Stocks surged further, with Wall Street up more than 3 percent, after Powell said policymakers were paying attention to market activity and would be flexible in deciding future interest rate hikes and reducing the Fed's balance sheet.

Stocks surged on Friday after the Labor Department reported USA firms created 312,000 jobs in December, and Powell said the Fed would be flexible in deciding on any further rate increases.

The tech-heavy Cheddar 50 Index, which measures the performance of Cheddar's 50 top companies ー from Apple ($AAPL) to GM ($GM) ー gained 5.4 percent on Friday, amid broader market gains.

Building on a comment by Yellen that the Fed in the past has often killed expansions by jacking up rates to fight too-high inflation, Bernanke said he didn't see anyone "hiding behind the curtain" waiting to slay the current upturn, including the central bank. But some investors have anxious that that process could push long-term rates higher at a time when the economy was slowing.

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Compared to comments he made after the Fed raised rates last month, "it's not that he's changed his message. but that he explained it more patiently and in greater detail", said Lou Brien, market strategist at DRW Trading in Chicago.

A third Fed president, Thomas Barkin of Richmond, said he is hearing more concerns about economic risks and trade. Under the law that governs the Federal Reserve, a president can only remove a Fed chairman for cause. Asked if he had had any face-to-face meetings with Trump, Powell said he had not although he said previous Fed leaders have had discussions from time to time with previous presidents.

Powell triggered an acceleration in the selling pressure when he said, "As always, there is no preset path for policy".

A strong jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also likely quelled some fears that the U.S.is part of a broader economic deceleration. But it has been gradually reversing that stance over the past year, although the balance sheet still remains above $4 trillion. Echoing that assertion, the central banker said at the Atlanta event that the Fed was ready to change course "significantly if necessary".

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"Longer-term bonds have sold off here today in price", said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Inverness Counsel in NY.

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