The US Federal Reserve delivered its third, and probably final, interest rate cut of the year last week. The quarter-point reduction means that borrowing costs in the world’s largest economy now sit between 1.5% and 1.75%.
Quite why an economy at “full employment, chugging along at its sustainable growth rate of about 2%” needs a rate cut escapes me, says Irwin Stelzer in The Sunday Times. Fed chairman Jerome Powell worries that bad manufacturing data shows that the economy is slowing, but “free-spending” consumers (who after all account for around 70% of the economy) are keeping things ticking along just fine. At least Powell indicated that “that’s it for this year and probably next”.
It will take a “horror show” for Powell to cut rates further, agrees John Authers on Bloomberg. The Fed says the cuts are insurance against a slump but that it does not anticipate a recession. Those expecting further rate cuts from here are betting that a recession is around the corner.
The S&P 500 and Nasdaq indices both recently stormed to all-time highs, notes Liam Halligan in The Sunday Telegraph. The emergency measures of the financial crisis – ultra-low rates and monetary expansion – have since become “lifestyle choices” for big-money interests and profligate governments alike. Yet the needless cuts ensure that “when the next crisis comes, even the mighty Fed will have almost no scope to respond”.