Category Archives: 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."

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Inflation eases, but Fed’s Bullard concerned with cutting interest rates

Although the Labor Department’s last report indicated an easing of inflation to 5.4% and a research group said on Thursday that September inflation pressures fell to a more than six-year low, a Fed president thinks lowering interest rates is not the answer right now.

“I think lowering interest rates right now, maybe, is not the right response,” James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, told an audience in Bloomington, Indiana after giving a speech on Thursday.

The Federal Reserve is naturally inclined to raise interest rates to combat inflation, and lower them to reduce the pull of downward economic activity or recession.

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European inflation pressures recede, and could help U.S.

The European Central Bank (ECB) shifted away slightly from an inflationary guard on Thursday, as the bank suggested the possibility of reducing interest rates later this year to help spur growth. A European interest rate cut could, some economists say, help reduce U.S. inflation.

As expected Thursday, the central bank’s Governing Council left its benchmark interest rate at 4.25%. But statements by ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet focused on declining economic growth.

“Economic activity in the euro area is weakening with contracting domestic demand and tighter financing condition,” Trichet said. “The economic outlook is subject to increased downside risks.”

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Fed leaves rates steady at 2% despite financial turmoil and easing inflation

With the latest financial sector turmoil and easing inflation, many economists were at least thinking the Federal Reserve would reduce interest rates on Tuesday. That was not the case. The Fed left the benchmark federal funds rate stead at 2 %, where it’s been since April and for the third straight meeting.

The vote was unanimous, without even a dissent from Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, who voted to increase rates during two prior Fed meetings.

A MarketWatch article by Greg Robb aptly opened with the the likely intent on the move:

"[The fed is] trying to project an appearance of calm and stability amid the turmoil of financial markets."

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) statement reflects continual concern over economic growth and the direction of inflation despite the latter showing a slight easing according to a report today by the a Labor Department.

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Latest Fed minutes show concern over inflation

That latest Federal Reserve minutes taken during the Fed’s August 5th meeting where they held interest rates steady indicates a concern over greater inflation risks into next year.

The Fed warned against inflation in their statement, but the minutes released Tuesday, August 25, better highlights the extent of their growing worry:

"Participants expressed significant concerns about the upside risks to inflation, especially the risk that persistently high headline inflation could result in an unmooring of long-run inflation expectations. Some viewed the upside risks to inflation as having diminished modestly over the intermeeting period, mainly as a result of the drop in the prices of oil and some other commodities as well as the greater likelihood of persistent economic slack.

However, others viewed these risks as having increased, particularly in light of continued elevated readings on headline inflation, the low level of the real federal funds rate, anecdotal information suggesting that firms were having more success in passing higher costs on to their customers, and some signs of an upward drift over recent months in investors’ expectations and uncertainty regarding inflation over the longer run; moreover, the recent decline in energy prices might well be reversed in coming months.

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Fed chief Bernanke forecasts moderate inflation

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said inflation was on track to ease later this year and next. Bernanke made the comments Friday at an economic conference before leading economists and policymakers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Decreasing commodity prices, increased stability of the dollar, and slower growth were cited reasons for the improved outlook.

"If not reversed, these developments, together with a pace of growth that is likely to fall short of potential for a time, should lead inflation to moderate later this year and next year," Bernanke said.

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s speech on Aug. 22, 2008

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke spoke before an annual economic conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on August 22, 2008. He touched on several economic items, but his soothing inflation message stood out most noticeably.

Bernanke forecasted moderate inflation, provisioned on commodity prices, growth and dollar stability factors.

The following is the prepared text of his speech, as provided by the Federal Reserve website.

Reducing Systemic Risk

In choosing the topic for this year’s symposium–maintaining stability in a changing financial system–the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City staff is, once again, right on target. Continue reading Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s speech on Aug. 22, 2008

Growing inflation: Wholesale prices jump to highest annual rate in 27 years

The Producer Price Index (PPI), which measures prices at the factory door and inflation pressures before they reach the consumer, jumped 1.2% in July and 9.8% in the past year, according to a Labor Department report released Tuesday.

The 1.2% climb was double the rate economists expected and follows a 1.8% jump in June and a 1.4% rise in May. Core producer prices, which exclude food and energy, jumped 0.7 percent in July after a 0.2 percent June increase.

The rise in wholesale prices marks the highest annual rate since June 1981, or 27 years.

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Inflation helped by lower commodity prices

The Fed and consumers may have less cause for worry over inflation as a continual fall in commodities gives everyone money to purchase more than gas and groceries.

In the last Federal Reserve meeting on August 4, the Fed said "inflation has been high, spurred by the earlier increases in the prices of energy and some other commodities."

While commodity prices have increased, they are nowhere near their punishing spring highs. As an example, oil prices dropped Monday to a low of $112.72 a barrel. A far cry from its record high of $147.27 on July 11.

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Fed warns against inflation, but hold rates at 2%

The Federal Reserve met Tuesday and did what most expected… nothing. Concern over both inflation and economic growth were voiced. But in the end, the Fed left the benchmark federal funds rate at 2 %, where it’s been since April.

The vote was 10-1, with a dissent from Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, who wanted to increase rates to combat inflation, as he did in the last Fed meeting.

Based on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) statement after the meeting, investors took measure and concluded the Fed would not raise rates in the near term either. Continue reading Fed warns against inflation, but hold rates at 2%