Fed cuts key rate yet again


Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 8:17 p.m.

WASHINGTON - The Federal Reserve on Wednesday cut a key interest rate for the second time in just over a week, reducing the federal funds rate by a half point. It signaled that further rate cuts were possible.

The Fed action pushed the funds rate to 3 percent. It followed a three-fourths of a percentage point cut on Jan. 22, a day after financial markets around the world had plummeted on fears that the U.S. economy was heading into a recession. That decrease had been the biggest one-day move in more than two decades.

The half-point cut Wednesday followed news that the economy had slowed significantly in the final three months of last year with the gross domestic product expanding at a barely discernible pace of 0.6 percent, less than half what had been expected.

The report came amid increased concern from several quarters about a possible recession.

In a brief statement explaining their decision, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues said that "financial markets remain under considerable stress.''

The Fed move was approved on a 9 to 1 vote. Richard Fisher, president of the Fed's Dallas regional bank, dissented, preferring no change in rates.

The rate cut marked the fifth time that the Fed has cut the funds rate since it started with a half-point cut on Sept. 18 in response to the severe credit crisis which hit global markets in August.

Financial markets, which had been hoping for a bolder half-point move, rallied on the announcement.

The Dow Jones industrial average, which had been in negative territory shortly before the Fed action, climbed back into the positive range in the minutes following the statement, with the Dow Jones industrial average up by more than 70 points in the first half-hour of trading.

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