Market could sink if Fed’s Powell ‘slips up’ during ‘heckling’

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CNBC’s Jim Cramer on Tuesday warned about the stock market implications of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s upcoming post-meeting news conference.

The Fed is set to release its policy statement at 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday, at the conclusion of its two-day June gathering. Powell’s Q&A session with reporters is scheduled to follow. Powell’s comments are being highly anticipated across Wall Street, as traders and investors look for fresh insights into how the Fed will respond to a series of recent data points showing inflation across the U.S. economy.

On “Squawk Box,” Cramer said he expects Powell to face “endless heckling” from journalists about whether the central bank’s highly accommodative monetary policy remains appropriate at this stage of the economy’s recovery from the Covid pandemic.

Powell “has been saying, ‘I’m going to stay the course, stay the course.’ But there’s just this tortuous Q&A thing that he does, where it’s just a nightmare,” the “Mad Money” host said.

“There are going to be people who just ask about the [producer price index] eight straight times, and they’re going to try and wear him down and maybe at one point he’s just worn down and he goes, ‘Yeah I know we’re buying too many mortgages’ … or he slips up,” Cramer suggested.

The Labor Department on Tuesday said the PPI in May rose a hot 6.6% year over year, the largest 12-month increase on record. That comes after last week’s big spike in consumer prices.

“I mean, Jay is really practiced, but on the eighth question or the ninth question, I think he’s going to say, ‘Listen, I’m going to look at this,’ and that’s going to freak people out,” Cramer continued.

Asked by CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin about how, exactly, stocks might react in that hypothetical scenario, Cramer responded: “Market goes down big, and we go down for about four, five days.”

Cramer also reiterated that he shares Powell’s inflation outlook, believing the rise in prices is likely to be temporary during the Covid recovery, justifying the Fed’s near-zero interest rates and asset purchase program.