The financial market didn’t get what it had hoped for out of today’s release of the minutes from the Federal Reserve’s July 31 meeting.
The market was hoping for something in the minutes that pointed toward a shift in Fed policy toward an extended cycle of interest rate cuts.
What it got instead was evidence of a deeply divided Fed with some two members arguing for a 50 basis point cut rather than the 25 basis point cut that the Fed delivered and two other members arguing against any interest rate cut at all.
The picture that emerges from the meeting is of a Fed tiptoeing to a 25 basis point cut as insurance against a global economic slowdown resulting from President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and his other tariff threats. In announcing the July cut Fed chair From Powell called it a “mid-cycle” adjustment. The minutes back that up describing the cut as part of an “ongoing reassessment” of Fed policy.
Even if you really torture the minutes, you don’t get the affirmation of a new policy of multiple rate cuts that President Trump has been advocating and that the financial markets have hoped for in recent weeks.
The minutes did not shift the outlook for further rate cuts this year. January fed funds futures indicate a rate of 1.49% at the end of 2019, having indicated 1.485% just before the release. The effective effective fed funds rate is currently at 2.13%. Doing the math, the financial market continues to look for almost 65 basis points of interest rate reductions this year. And the minutes are a reminder that there July meeting saw dissents from two Fed presidents with Eric Rosengren of Boston and Esther George of Kansas City voting in favor of no change. This is the first double dissent Powell has faced since he took as Fed chair in February 2018.