Today the Federal Reserve lowered its main interest rate another 25 basis points to a range of 1.75% to 2%.
To say that the Fed’s Open Market Committee was divided on the decision would be an extreme understatement: Five officials wanted to keep rates unchanged, while five saw a quarter point as appropriate, and seven wanted a half point reduction.
The financial markets priced in one more 25 basis point cut in December 2019.
President Donald Trump tweeted his disappointment with the Fed’s decision a mere 25 minutes after the public announcement: “Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve Fail Again,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “No ‘guts,’ no sense, no vision! A terrible communicator.” Last week President Trump tweeted his agreement with the decision by the European Central Bank to cut its benchmark rate another tenth of a point to a negative 0.5% and to resume quantitative easing. The Fed should follow suit, Trump wrote, and quickly cut interest rates to 1% or even to 0%.
The Federal Reserve today repeated its pledge to “act as appropriate to sustain the expansion.”
Consumer spending continues to rise at a strong pace, the Fed said, and the job market continues strong with solid job growth. The main danger to the U.S. economy comes from a slowdown in the global economy as a result of disruptions to global trade. (While the Fed didn’t mention Trump by name, everyone knows that the central bank was pointing to U.S.-China trade war.) That has led to weakness in business investment and in U.S. exports.
The split indicated in today’s vote will make it hard, in my opinion, for the Fed to cut rates by more than 25 basis points at its December meeting–absent some negative news event.
Today the Standard & Poor’s 500 closed down 0.32% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was lower by 0.23%. The NASDAQ Composite was off 0.11% and the Russell 2000 small cap index fell 0.63%. The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) tripped lower by 0.41%.