Mar 3, 2020 - Economy & Business

Fed cuts interest rate in response to coronavirus

Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve unanimously decided to cut interest rates by half-a-percentage point — a large amount — in an emergency response to the spread of coronavirus and its impact on the economy.

Why it matters: The last time the Fed announced an interest rate cut outside a regularly scheduled meeting was in the midst of the financial crisis. The rare move shows the Fed's effort to stem any impact the coronavirus poses to the record-long economic recovery.

Between the lines: Market-watchers say a rate cut is not an adequate response to the coronavirus outbreak, though it could "soften collateral damage to spending and confidence," as the Wall Street Journal puts it.

  • "Certainly, rate cuts will not help re-stock emptying grocery shelves. Monetary policy is hopeless when supply simply cannot feed demand," Seema Shah, chief strategist at asset management firm Principal Global Investors, said in a statement.

How it's playing: Stocks fell slightly after Powell's comments, giving back some of Monday's big gains. As of Tuesday morning, the S&P was teetering back into correction territory, or 10% below its record high.

What they're saying: "We do recognize a rate cut won't reduce rate of infection. We don't think we have all the answers," Fed chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Tuesday.

  • "The ultimate solutions to this challenge will come from others, particularly health professionals. We can and will do our part, however, to keep the U.S. economy strong."

Driving the news: The sudden move Tuesday came on the heels of exhortations on Twitter by President Trump for the Fed to act — and after the Fed telegraphed on Friday that it would move soon to react to the rapidly unspooling coronavirus outbreak.

  • After the Fed's announcement, Trump said the cut wasn't enough: "More easing and cutting!" the president tweeted.
  • "We're never going to consider any political considerations whatsoever," Powell told reporters, in response to a questions about whether the rate cut was motivated by Trump's goading.

Go deeper

After its emergency rate cut, investors wonder what the Fed knows

Jerome Powell. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Investors and President Trump want the same thing after Tuesday's surprise 50 basis point cut by the Fed: more cuts.

The state of play: The announcement, two weeks to the day before the beginning of the central bank's scheduled March 17–18 policy meeting, has investors scratching their heads. "The Fed pulled the fire alarm without telling anybody why," Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group, tells Axios.

Fed cuts interest rates to near zero in emergency coronavirus intervention

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve on Sunday cut its benchmark interest rate to almost zero and launched a $700 billion quantitative easing program in response to the expected economic downturn and stock market slump caused by the coronavirus.

Why it matters: This is the most drastic measure the Fed could take to try to shield the economy amid a global pandemic. The central bank hasn’t made moves this dramatic since the financial crisis.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Mar 15, 2020 - Economy & Business

Goldman Sachs expects a full percentage point of rate cuts from the Fed

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Fed chair Jerome Powell's statement on Friday afternoon that the U.S. central bank was "closely monitoring developments" and would "act as appropriate to support the economy" has eliminated any doubt that the Fed will cut U.S. interest rates at its meeting on March 17–18.

What we're hearing: "A Fed cut in March appears nearly certain," analysts at Goldman Sachs said in a late Sunday note to clients.