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Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said interest rates are "just below" the level that would neither promote nor restrict economic growth, according to a transcript of a speech he's set to give on Wednesday in New York.

"Interest rates are still low by historical standards, and they remain just below the broad range of estimates of the level that would be neutral for the economy — that is, neither speeding up nor slowing down growth."
— Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell

Between the lines: Stocks jumped after the release of the speech, as investors assumed less rate hikes than originally anticipated will be necessary to get to the neutral level. This is a much less aggressive tone than Powell had in October, when he said in an interview with PBS that interest rates were "a long way from neutral."

Powell also addressed the Fed's first-ever "Financial Stability" report, released hours before Wednesday's speech:

  • He said that "overall financial stability vulnerabilities are at a moderate level," but also warned that high levels of corporate debt could "amplify" an economic downturn.
  • Powell added that he didn't "see vulnerabilities as elevated overall today in financial markets," and that equity prices are "broadly consistent with historical benchmarks."
  • The trade war, Brexit, and Italy's budget battle are among the risks Powell said could exacerbate stress to U.S. and global markets.

Go deeper: Jerome Powell's rough road

Go deeper

Updated 57 mins ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch a fireworks show on the National Mall from the Truman Balcony at the White House on Wednesday night. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden signed his first executive orders into law from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening after walking in a brief inaugural parade to the White House with First Lady Jill Biden and members of their family. He was inaugurated with Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Many of Biden's day one actions immediately reverse key Trump administration policies, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, launching a racial equity initiative and reversing the Muslim travel ban.

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.