Maybe the third time Jerome Powell will get lucky.

The Federal Reserve chairman looked close to pulling off a soft landing of the ebbing U.S. economy twice this year -- at the start of May and the end of July.

Each time though he saw his plans blown off course via an escalation of trade tensions by President Donald Trump. Things were bad enough in August that Powell delayed his vacation by a day to assess the fallout.

As he approaches his third year as Fed chairman, Powell is again sounding confident that the economy and monetary policy are in a good place, calibrated to help extend the record-long U.S. economic expansion.

Reflecting his contentment, Powell and his colleagues are expected to leave interest rates unchanged on Wednesday after cutting them at three consecutive meetings. And they’re keeping their fingers crossed that Trump will decide not to follow through on his threat to impose more tariffs on Chinese imports on Dec. 15.

“The jury is still out but it’s very much looking like a soft landing,” said Princeton University professor Alan Blinder, who served as Fed vice chairman from 1994 to 1996, the last — and arguably only — time the central bank cooled off the economy without crashing it into recession.

A recession probability model developed by Bloomberg economists puts the odds of a contraction in the next 12 months at about one in four, down from close to one in two a year ago, when financial markets were spooked by what even some Fed insiders admit was a poorly executed December rate increase.

“One can argue that at the end of 2018 they were a little slow to recognize that things had turned,” former Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn said. But Powell “corrected it within weeks” by signaling that the Fed was putting further hikes on hold.

How things go from here is critical not only for Powell’s legacy. It’s also important for the reputation of the politically independent central bank as it faces an onslaught of criticism from the president.

Trump has a lot riding on Powell’s ability to keep the economy purring as well. A 2020 downturn would probably imperil his chances of winning re-election in November.

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