Yellen: No signs US economy in downturn, warns against gov't shutdown

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington

By Andrea Shalal and Doina Chiacu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Monday said she saw no signs the U.S. economy is entering a downturn but warned that failure by Congress to pass legislation to keep the government running risked slowing momentum in the economy.

"I don't see any signs that the economy is at risk of a downturn," Yellen told CNBC, noting that the U.S. labor market also remained strong and inflation was coming down.

"There's absolutely no reason for a shutdown," she said. "Creating ... a situation that could cause a loss of momentum is something we don't need as a risk at this point."

Yellen said it was premature to gauge the impact of a strike by the United Auto Workers against the Detroit Three U.S. automakers, one of the most ambitious U.S. industrial labor actions in decades, noting that would depend on how long it lasts and who was affected.

She underscored President Joe Biden's commitment to collective bargaining and ensuring that workers "come out ahead as well" since the industry had been doing well.

She said the labor market remained strong, but it was cooling and was "not quite as hot as it was," which was important given the objective to lower inflation back down to 2%.

Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, said the central bank's moves to raise interest rates had begun to impact the housing market, but consumer spending remained "quite robust."

She said the Biden administration was keeping a close eye on gasoline prices after recent surges, and Biden was committed to ensuring that prices remained affordable for Americans.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Mark Porter and Andrea Ricci)