The Economy

Fed Resists Pressure for Interest Rate Cut

The Fed doesn't see "a strong case for moving [rates] in either direction" amid weak inflation and solid economic growth.
Matthew HellerMay 1, 2019

The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday shrugged off growing pressure for an interest rate cut, saying current economic conditions still require a “patient” approach to monetary policy despite weak inflation.

After four interest rate hikes in 2018, Fed policymakers have held steady on rates so far this year amid concerns about weak economic data in the United States and abroad. They voted unanimously to stay on that course at their April meeting, leaving the federal funds rate in a range of 2.25% to 2.50%.

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“In light of global economic and financial developments and muted inflation pressures, the policy-making committee will be patient as it determines what future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate may be appropriate to support monetary policy objectives,” the Fed said in a news release.

With overall inflation and so-called core inflation having declined recently and running below the Fed’s 2% target, President Trump has been pressuring the Fed to lower interest rates and provide further support to speed up economic growth. On Tuesday, he said the central bank should cut rates by a full percentage point.

Wall Street expects the Fed to cut rates by the end of the year, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

In March, the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index excluding the volatile food and energy components rose only 1.6%. But Fed Chairman Jerome Powell predicted it would rise back to the 2% target.

“We think our policy stance is appropriate at the moment; we don’t see a strong case for moving it in either direction,” he told reporters, adding, “I see us on a good path for this year.”

As Reuters reports, weak inflation “would be a problem if it meant that households and businesses had doubts about the economy’s strength and were less willing to spend and invest.” But gross domestic product rose at a 3.2% rate in the first quarter and the labor market continues to be strong.

“Stronger growth but weaker inflation equaled a still-patient Fed,” said economist Andrew Grantham of CIBC World Markets.