Cramer says the Fed is ‘recklessly’ confusing the stock market

The Federal Reserve caused the stock sell-off by “recklessly” confusing the market on interest rates, CNBC’s Jim Cramer contended Thursday.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell must realize “how powerful his words are” and practice “prudence,” Cramer said on “Squawk on the Street” before markets opened sharply lower. Powell “did this country a great disservice” for his comments on rates, he added.

Cramer has been critical of Powell ever since the Fed chairman’s remarks on Oct. 3 that the cost of borrowing money was a long way from so-called neutral, sparking concerns about possibly more aggressive Fed tightening that led to October being the worst month for the S&P 500 since September 2011. Powell appeared to walk back those comments the following month, saying rates are “just below” neutral.

Last week, the Fed raised rates and lowered its rate hike projection for 2019 from three to two. That eventually led to a stock sell-off, which caused the the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq to see their biggest weekly losses in more than 10 years. The S&P 500 had its worst week since August 2011.

The market rout spilled over into the following week with Wall Street having its worst Christmas Eve trading session ever. However, stocks surged Wednesday with all three major indexes seeing their biggest one-day percentage gains since March 2009.

The “Mad Money” host said Thursday that the Fed should have taken a “wait and see” approach on rate hikes instead of forecasting two increases next year.

“It’s a good time to be quiet,” Cramer said. “It’s being quiet and being sensible and tempering your comments, and not speculating about how many rate hikes you had.”

The Fed did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Cramer’s remarks.

Not everyone on the Street expects the Fed to go through with two rate increases next year. A growing chorus of well-respected Wall Street voices, including Guggenheim’s Scott Minerd and Art Cashin of UBS, have predicted in recent days that the Fed could cut rates next year.

In an interview after the central bank’s recent rate decision, New York Federal Reserve President John Williams told CNBC last week that the Fed was open to reconsidering its views on rate hikes next year, sending stocks briefly higher.

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