US Fed official defends larger cut after divided vote

Washington, Sep 21 (IANS) James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, continued to demand a larger cut in interest rates, after voting against the US Fed’s decision to lower rates by 25 basis points earlier this week.
“I believe that lowering the target range for the federal funds rate by 50 basis points at this time would provide insurance against further declines in expected inflation and a slowing economy subject to elevated downside risks,” Bullard said in a statement on Friday, Xinhua reported.
One of the considerations that factored into his decision is that “there are signs that US economic growth is expected to slow in the near horizon,” said Bullard, one of the three dissenters at the central bank’s latest policy meeting.
“Trade policy uncertainty remains elevated, U.S. manufacturing already appears in recession, and many estimates of recession probabilities have risen from low to moderate levels,” he said, adding that the yield curve is inverted, and US policy rate remains above government bond yields for nearly every country in the Group of Seven.
The other consideration, Bullard said, is the persistent muted inflation, as core and headline personal consumption expenditures price indexes continue to run some 40 to 60 basis points, respectively, below the Fed’s 2-per cent inflation target.
“It is prudent risk management, in my view, to cut the policy rate aggressively now and then later increase it should the downside risks not materialize,” said Bullard, who also noted that a 50-basis-point cut at this time would help promote a more “rapid return” of inflation and inflation expectations to target.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, meanwhile, played down the growing split among monetary policymakers.
When asked about how he viewed the divided opinions, Powell told reporters at a press conference that this is difficult judgment, and such divisions are “nothing but healthy”.

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