© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell looks on as he testifies before a U.S. House Financial Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo
By Ann Saphir
(Reuters) – Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell worked through the weekend after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, meeting with staff on both Saturday and Sunday for the first time since May 2020 when the central bank was deep into its pandemic crisis response.
Powell had two 45-minute meetings with staff on Feb. 26, including one that started at 8 p.m., and also attended an hourlong meeting at the Treasury, his monthly schedule published Friday shows.
On Feb. 27 he met with staff from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and then again at 8 p.m.; on the Monday, the day Treasury put sanctions on Russia’s central bank and threatened more action if the war continued, Powell held another 45-minute 8 p.m. staff meeting.
Though the Fed chair calendars never detail the contents of notated meetings, the flurry of work suggests the pressure on Powell to figure out the fallout for the U.S. economy from what Russia calls a “special operation” designed to destroy its southern neighbor’s military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.
The invasion sent world energy prices soaring just as the Fed was getting ready to begin a round of interest rates hikes to fight 40-year-high inflation.
A few days after that weekend of work, Powell told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the near-term effects of the invasion, the war, the sanctions, and of events to still to come “remain highly uncertain,” but he signaled the Fed’s rate increases would go ahead as expected.