Biden snaps profanely at reporter over inflation as stocks swing wildly ahead of Fed meeting

President Biden’s frustration about inflation boiled over at the White House on Monday, on a day when the impact of record-high prices helped fuel jitters on Wall Street.

As Mr. Biden was convening a meeting of his “competition council” to discuss ways to fight inflation, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy shouted a question at the president, asking if inflation was a political liability for Democrats in the midterm elections.

“It’s a great asset — more inflation,” Mr. Biden said sarcastically, apparently not realizing his microphone was still on. “What a stupid son of a b——.”

The president’s profane venting came on a day when stocks went on a wild ride, plunging more than 2% on a key index before closing slightly higher at the end of trading. Concerns on Wall Street stemmed from the Federal Reserve’s looming inflation-fighting measures and possible military conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average at one point was down more than 1,000 points on Monday before recovering to gain 99 points, closing at 34,364 points, up 0.29%. The Dow has been on track for its worst month since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

The benchmark S&P 500, which has been on a course to drop more than 10% from its most recent high, closed up 0.28% to finish at 4,410 points. The tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 0.63%.

Investors are jumpy ahead of a two-day Federal Reserve meeting that begins on Tuesday, as the central bank prepares to raise interest rates to help slow record-high inflation.  

Oil and cryptocurrency have fallen as investors monitored military tensions between Moscow and Kyiv. Mr. Biden held a videoconference Monday with European allies, and the U.S. put 8,500 troops on “heightened alert” for a possible NATO deployment to aid Ukraine.

A three-week decline in the markets since New Year’s has come as voters grow increasingly uneasy about the economy, with persistent supply-chain problems and inflation at a 40-year high of 7%. An NBC News poll released Sunday showed 72% of Americans believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction.

White House advisers tried to downplay the market shifts on Monday.

“We focus on the trends in the economy, not [on] any one day and any single indicator,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “Unlike his predecessor, the president does not look at the stock market as a means by which to judge the economy.”

She quickly added that the stock market is still up about 15% since Mr. Biden took office.

Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said inflation “has wiped out three years of wage gains for average Americans.”

“We’ve still got a serious worker shortage that is really damaging Main Street businesses in a big way,” Mr. Brady said on Yahoo Finance. “Economic optimism has really plunged both from small businesses and families.”

Mr. Biden said at the Competition Council meeting that his administration is taking dozens of steps to foster competition among big businesses in an effort to lower prices. He said firms in the agricultural, pharmaceutical and high-tech industries are consolidating and keeping prices high.

Mr. Biden pointed to the Justice Department last summer blocking a proposed $30 billion insurance industry merger between Aon and Willis Towers Watson. He also said his administration is pushing for over-the-counter sales of hearing aids, and consumers’ ability to get high-tech gadgets repaired by someone other than the manufacturer.

“This isn’t just about quick wins, it’s about reversing decades of concentration that have hurt workers, consumers and small businesses,” the president said.

• This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

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