Fed cuts 25 bps, shifts to "neutral"
"The Federal Open Market Committee decided today to lower its target for the federal funds rate 25 basis points to 2 percent.
"Recent information indicates that economic activity remains weak. Household and business spending has been subdued and labor markets have softened further. Financial markets remain under considerable stress, and tight credit conditions and the deepening housing contraction are likely to weigh on economic growth over the next few quarters.
"Although readings on core inflation have improved somewhat, energy and other commodity prices have increased, and some indicators of inflation expectations have risen in recent months. The Committee expects inflation to moderate in coming quarters, reflecting a projected leveling-out of energy and other commodity prices and an easing of pressures on resource utilization. Still, uncertainty about the inflation outlook remains high. It will be necessary to continue to monitor inflation developments carefully.
"The substantial easing of monetary policy to date, combined with ongoing measures to foster market liquidity, should help to promote moderate growth over time and to mitigate risks to economic activity. The Committee will continue to monitor economic and financial developments and will act as needed to promote sustainable economic growth and price stability.
"Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; Timothy F. Geithner, Vice Chairman; Donald L. Kohn; Randall S. Kroszner; Frederic S. Mishkin; Sandra Pianalto; Gary H. Stern; and Kevin M. Warsh. Voting against were Richard W. Fisher and Charles I. Plosser, who preferred no change in the target for the federal funds rate at this meeting.
"In a related action, the Board of Governors unanimously approved a 25-basis-point decrease in the discount rate to 2-1/4 percent. In taking this action, the Board approved the requests submitted by the Boards of Directors of the Federal Reserve Banks of New York, Cleveland, Atlanta, and San Francisco."
It's worth nothing that both Plosser and Fisher disagreed with the FOMC majority again. Both wanted no cut at the meeting. Also, the Fed stripped out a sentence from the March 18 post-meeting statement that read: "However, downside risks to growth remain." This seems to validate market expectations that the Fed has moved to a more neutral stance on interest rates. However, I'm surprised the Fed didn't use today's meeting as an opportunity to send a stronger signal about inflation and the dollar.
UPDATE: On an unrelated note, I have now enabled commenting on the blog. For certain reasons, I have chosen to do so on a moderated basis. So try to play nice! Thanks ...