Category Archives: Federal Reserve

Deflation a key risk in 2009, argues St. Louis Fed President James Bullard

Further disinflation and a possibly "deflationary trap" is a key "near-term risk" for 2009, said James Bullard, president of the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, on Tuesday during a speech in New York. Bullard warned,

"Expectations of deflation for the next five years may feed into real interest rates, driving real rates higher just at the time monetary policy would like to move them lower."

Deflation is a persistent decrease in general prices, or the opposite of inflation. Falling prices may seem like good news for consumers, but only to a certain point. If prices mark sustained deflationary levels that strike below the cost to produce goods and services, further economic turmoil can ensue with production cuts, payroll reductions and deepening unemployment. Deflation can intensify debt by making it more expensive, cripple equity and widen home foreclosures.

Bullard addressed the New York Association For Business Economics where he said the recession would likely continue at least to the first half of 2009, and that there is a risk for sustained disinflation and a possible deflationary cycle similar to what the Japanese experienced after 1990. Continue reading Deflation a key risk in 2009, argues St. Louis Fed President James Bullard

Fed December minutes paint darker economic picture, lower inflation

Minutes taken during the closed-door Federal Reserve December 15-16 meeting paint a darker than expected picture for the economy, with further contraction and rising unemployment on the horizon.

At the conclusion of its historic meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) slashed rates to a record low of between zero and 0.25%. The minutes, which provide much more detail and are always released several weeks after the official meeting, cite specific expectations reaching into 2009 and 2010. Continue reading Fed December minutes paint darker economic picture, lower inflation

Fed slashes rates to record low, zero to 0.25%

The Federal Reserve aggressively lowered its benchmark federal funds rate to a range of between zero percent and 0.25%, and said it would "employ all available tools to promote the resumption of sustainable economic growth."

Slashing the overnight lending rate by such a degree was an unexpected Fed move. Most everyone had expected a 0.5% cut from its prior 1%. The rate is now at its lowest level since the government started keeping records in 1954.

"It’s a highly unorthodox and creative step," Michael Woolfolk, senior currency strategist, at the Bank of New York-Mellon in New York told Reuters. "We think it’s the best possible move for the U.S. consumer and for the financial market."

The announcement was made by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), who released the following statement: Continue reading Fed slashes rates to record low, zero to 0.25%

Fed seen lowering rates toward zero without inflation worries

Greatly reduced inflation pressures and a desire to spark some life into the economy has almost everyone expecting the Federal Reserve to cut its benchmark overnight interest rate from 1% to 0.50%, marking the lowest level on records dating to July 1954.

Plummeting energy prices have taken the sting out of inflation since crude prices tumbled off their record peak near $147 per barrel in July — also when inflation was at its highest for the year. New York crude-oil for January delivery settled to $46.28 a barrel, falling $1.70 on Friday.

Consumer prices dropped a record 1% in October. The Labor Department reports on Tuesday the November CPI, which is the most watched government inflation barometer. Economists expect another record decline to 1.4%. Add in Friday’s report by the government showing producer prices fell to 2.2% and the Fed has an enormous green light to lower rates with little regard for inflation. Continue reading Fed seen lowering rates toward zero without inflation worries

Producer prices drop 2.2% in November

Producer prices fell sharply in November as energy prices plunged for the fourth consecutive month, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The Producer Price Index (PPI), which measures prices at the factory door and inflation pressures before they reach the consumer, fell steeper than expected to 2.2%. Economists had pegged a predictive 2.0% rise. The index registered its biggest monthly decline ever in October, falling a record 2.8%.

Plummeting energy prices again led the way in dragging prices down. The energy index fell 11.2% after a 12.8% drop in the previous month which set a 22-year record. Crude goods declined 12.5% following a 18.6% drop in October.

The consecutive declines further highlights free-falling crude-oil prices, which closed Thursday in New York at $47.98 a barrel — a far distance from its record highs near $147 per barrel in July when inflation peaked.

Continue reading Producer prices drop 2.2% in November

Producer prices set record drop of 2.8% in October

Producer prices plunged in October for the third straight month and by a level never before on record, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.

The Producer Price Index (PPI), which measures prices at the factory door and inflation pressures before they reach the consumer, plummeted 2.8%. Forecasters were expecting a 1.9% reduction, which would have itself broke the last record one-month drop of 1.6% in October 2001, or right after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Similar to September’s 0.4 % fall, diving energy prices were the key to October’s PPI decline. Energy prices plunged 12.8% in the month after falling 2.9% in September. That marks the biggest one-month drop since July 1986.

Continue reading Producer prices set record drop of 2.8% in October

Fed cuts interest rates to 1 percent, expects inflation to moderate

The Federal Reserve lowered its federal funds rate, the benchmark overnight lending rate at which banks lend to one another, by 50 basis points to 1 percent at Wednesday’s end of month scheduled meeting.

The latest rate is the lowest since 2004 and joins a new round of global cuts. China and Norway also cut rates on Wednesday, and other countries are expected to follow suite in an attempt to change the economic downturn and fight the ongoing crisis in the credit markets.

The Feds newest reduction follows on the heels of its emergency 1/2 percent interest rate cut on October 8 when world central banks first joined in their coordinated efforts to try to stabilize financial markets and ease out of the global credit crunch.

Today’s move was widely expected, although a minority of analysts suggested the Fed could cut rates by three-quarters of a percentage point to 0.75 percent, marking a never before seen low. Immediately following the announcement, U.S. stocks inched lower.

The announcement was made by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), who released the following statement:

Continue reading Fed cuts interest rates to 1 percent, expects inflation to moderate

Producer prices fall for second straight month

Producer prices fell in September with lower energy prices, and dropped for the second consecutive month, the Labor Department reported Wednesday.

The Producer Price Index (PPI), which measures prices at the factory door and inflation pressures before they reach the consumer, decreased in September to 0.4%. The drop was in line with analysts’ expectations. September’s decline follows a 0.9% drop in August and a 1.2% increase in July — a month that marked a 27-year high.

Falling energy prices was the key to easing price pressures as highlighted by the stark contrast of Tuesday’s Nymex crude-oil price of $78.63 per barrel compared to a record high near $147 per barrel in July. Energy prices fell 2.9 percent in September after tumbling 4.6 percent in August — a month that marked the biggest drop in nearly two years.

Continue reading Producer prices fall for second straight month

US Federal Reserve and world central banks cut interest rates

Inflation worries were thrown aside as interest rates were cut on Wednesday in a synchronized multi-country response to try to stabilize world financial markets and ease out of the global credit crunch.

Less than a day after Fed chairman Ben Bernanke hinted a rate cut could be in the works, an unscheduled emergency announcement was made by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to lower its target for the benchmark federal funds rate 50 basis points to 1-1/2 percent.  In a coordinated effort, the European Central Bank, China, Britain, Canada, Sweden and Switzerland also cut rates.

The following was released in a joint statement by the central banks:

Continue reading US Federal Reserve and world central banks cut interest rates

Fed chief hints at rate cuts, and notes better inflation outlook

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke signaled Tuesday that a cut in interest rates may turn into a reality as a result of the current economic landscape and a better inflation outlook.

“The combination of the incoming data and recent financial developments suggests that the outlook for economic growth has worsened and that the downside risks to growth have increased,” Bernanke said at the National Association for Business Economics Annual Meeting in Washington.

“At the same time, the outlook for inflation has improved somewhat, though it remains uncertain. In light of these developments, the Federal Reserve will need to consider whether the current stance of policy remains appropriate."

Continue reading Fed chief hints at rate cuts, and notes better inflation outlook