Federal Reserve cuts federal funds target rate by 25 basis points
The Federal Reserve said in today’s statement, “Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in June indicates that the labor market remains strong and that economic activity has been rising at a moderate rate. Job gains have been solid, on average, in recent months, and the unemployment rate has remained low.
Although growth of household spending has picked up from earlier in the year, growth of business fixed investment has been soft.
On a 12-month basis, overall inflation and inflation for items other than food and energy are running below 2 percent. Market-based measures of inflation compensation remain low; survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations are little changed. Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability.
In light of the implications of global developments for the economic outlook as well as muted inflation pressures, the Committee decided to lower the target range for the federal funds rate to 2 to 2-1/4 percent. This action supports the Committee’s view that sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective are the most likely outcomes, but uncertainties about this outlook remain.
As the Committee contemplates the future path of the target range for the federal funds rate, it will continue to monitor the implications of incoming information for the economic outlook and will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion, with a strong labor market and inflation near its symmetric 2 percent objective.”
Long Term Rates
The Federal Reserve also said in today’s statement, “In determining the timing and size of future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee will assess realized and expected economic conditions relative to its maximum employment objective and its symmetric 2 percent inflation objective.
This assessment will take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and international developments. The Committee will conclude the reduction of its aggregate securities holdings in the System Open Market Account in August, two months earlier than previously indicated.”
If you have no idea what the above paragraph means, this may help. Back in 2008, Ben Bernanke, then the Fed Chair, came up with a clever idea! Since the rates at the time where near zero. He needed a way to lower the rates, he started buying long term government bonds. The added demand for bonds caused bond prices to rise thus pushing the rates lower. In the past few quarters, the Feds have been selling these bonds, pushing prices lower, thus higher long term rates. Today’s announcement basically says Feds are ending the bond sales two months earlier, long term rates (mortgage prices) will now go lower.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the easing was to ensure against downside risks, as he begins his press conference.
He acknowledged the shift in the policy stance since December’s pivot. Fed has seen both positive and negative developments since the June meeting, including a stronger job market, but weaker manufacturing and disappointing foreign growth, while contacts continue to cite ongoing trade uncertainties are giving companies pause.
The Committee has gradually lowered the assessments of growth and that led to the easing today. On whether a 25 bp cut will prop up inflation, he noted one has to look at the Committee’s actions over the year as it’s moved to a more accommodative stance.
The Committee is thinking of today’s action as a mid-cycle adjustment to policy, designed to provide support for the economy, ensure against downside risks, and support inflation. Chair Powell continued to appeal to downside risks and below target inflation as the main threats to the favorable outlook.
He added, the Fed will monitor the evolution of trade uncertainty, which do seem to be having significant effect on the economy. He thinks trade is a new factor that the FOMC will have to assess “in a new way.”
The chair again said it’s not appropriate to just look at the quarter point easing, but rather the evolution of the Fed’s stance from tightening to easing, with the economy picking up since the end of 2018, which suggests monetary policy is working (though he declined to take full credit for the economy’s gains).
The Fed repeated it will “monitor” incoming information and will “act as appropriate to sustain the expansion,” not really suggesting the path ahead. The long end of the Treasury market is leading the way with the benchmark 10-year 4.4 bps lower to test 2.00, versus 2.023% just ahead of the announcement. The 2-year is down 1.4 bps to 1.83% versus 1.81% earlier. Hence, the curve has flattened to 17 bps from around 20 bps previously.
To read timely stories similar to this, along with money making trade ideas, sign up for a membership to Stockwinners.
This article does not constitute investment advice. Each reader is encouraged to consult with his or her individual financial professional and any action a reader takes as a result of information presented here is his or her own responsibility.