No Surprises from the Fed: Quarter Point Reduction
A lot has actually happened since I recorded my last podcast on Friday. I want to start with what happened today and then work backwards. First of all the big news of the day is the Federal Reserve did exactly what the markets expected and reduced interest rates by a quarter point.
Fed: “Mid-Course Correction”?
This is the second quarter point reduction since the Fed reversed course on monetary policy and started what it once called a ‘mid-course correction”. The markets didn’t really like that, so the Fed kind of walked that back. Although, in the press conference today, Powell was asked about the “mid-course correction” and he kind of dodged it a little bit, but still maintained the pretense that all is well in the economy. But anyway, the Fed delivered the quarter point cut #2. It is now targeting the Fed Funds Rate at between 1.75% and 2%.
Short Term Interest Rates Back Below 2%
So we now have short-term interest rates back below 2% – certainly on the way to zero, maybe even lower, we’ll see. Jerome Powell was specifically asked about negative interest rates during the Q&A session following the announcement. He basically said the Fed is not really thinking about negative interest rates, or don’t think they’re going to be doing negative interest rates, but of course we’ll see what happens when we get to zero, and the problems are not solved. The Fed may well do negative interest rates; they may well not want to let that cat out of the bag just yet.
Bullard: “Interest Rates are Too High”
At one point there was some anticipation that the Fed would do 50 basis points but by the time we actually got the announcement this morning, I don’t think anybody was really looking for 50 basis points. Although, in the decision to reduce rates, Jim Bullard actually dissented and said that he wanted a 50 basis point rate cut, rather than the 25, but there were 2 other dissenters who didn’t want any cuts at all.