The Federal Reserve on Wednesday cut interest rates for the third time this year to help sustain U.S. growth despite a slowdown in other parts of the world, but signaled no further reductions ahead unless the economy takes a turn for the worse.
“We believe that monetary policy is in a good place,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in a news conference after the U.S. central bank announced its decision to cut its key overnight lending rate by a quarter of a percentage point to a target range of between 1.50% and 1.75%.
“We took this step to help keep the economy strong in the face of global developments and to provide some insurance against ongoing risks,” he said. “We see the current stance of monetary policy as likely to remain appropriate as long as incoming information about the economy remains broadly consistent with our outlook.”
With the U.S.-China trade war “a step closer” to resolution, he said, and it looking less likely that Britain would crash out of the European Union, the outlook for the U.S. economy continues to be for “moderate” growth, a strong labor market and inflation rising back to the Fed’s 2% goal, he said.
Only “a material reassessment” of that outlook could drive the central bank to cut rates further from here, Powell said.
In the statement accompanying its decision to cut rates, the Fed dropped a previous reference that it “will act as appropriate” to sustain the economic expansion – language that was considered a sign for future rate cuts.
Instead, the central bank said it will “monitor the implications of incoming information for the economic outlook as it assesses the appropriate path” of its target interest rate, a less decisive phrase.
Kansas City Fed President Esther George and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren dissented from the decision. They have opposed all three Fed rate cuts this year as unnecessary.
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, who had dissented in September because he supported a bigger rate cut then, voted with the majority on Wednesday, an indication that views within the Fed may be coalescing around standing pat for now.
That is a posture likely not to sit well with President Donald Trump, who has pushed for deeper rate cuts and has regularly excoriated the central bank and Powell over the Fed’s policy stance.
The rate cut was widely anticipated by financial markets, but expectations for additional cuts after October have diminished significantly in recent weeks.
While yields on longer-dated bonds showed little reaction, those on shorter-dated maturities that are more closely influenced by Fed policy expectations initially moved higher. The yield on the 2-year note US2YT=RR rose to the highest since Oct. 1 at about 1.67% before settling back to earlier levels as Powell spoke.
U.S. stocks rose, with the benchmark S&P 500 index .SPX, which had hit a record high earlier in the week, rising after Powell’s remarks.
“It’s pretty much what was expected,” said Jim Powers, director of investment research at Delegate Advisors.
“The more important outcome is they removed the phrase ‘act as appropriate.’ It looks like the market is taking that to mean that there will be a pause in the declining rate path they were on beforehand. That’s what was expected, and that’s generally a good thing,” Powers said.