Sep 4, 2019

Fed discord over cutting rates could mean future headaches for Powell

Jerome powell

Fed Chair Jerome Powell. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The fight over the future of monetary policy at the Fed sharpened publicly ahead of the upcoming meeting in September.

What's new: Boston Fed president Eric Rosengren made the case against another cut to U.S. interest rates while St. Louis Fed president James Bullard said he would be in favor of a 50 basis point cut.

  • Rosengren and Bullard, both voters on the Fed's rate-setting committee this year, have been vocal about holding opposite positions on the rate-cut debate since July.
  • But Tuesday's comments showed the two are moving further apart on their respective stances rather than coming together.

Why it matters: The Fed delivered the first non-unanimous rate decision of Chairman Jerome Powell's tenure in June, and in July it saw 2 dissenting votes.

  • The increasing polarity of opinions on the Fed does not bode well for a central bank facing an unprecedented era in monetary policy and worsening U.S. and global economic data.

The intrigue: Bank of America Merrill Lynch research analysts said in June they were anticipating as many as 3 dissenting votes at that month's meeting. There was only 1, but more could very well be coming.

  • With unemployment and retail sales data holding strong, but manufacturing and business sentiment data weakening, Powell could face increasing scrutiny from members of the Fed no matter which direction he looks to take with policy.

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