1. SOUNDBITE (English) Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve:
"We decided today to lower the target for the federal funds rate by a quarter of a percentage point to a range of two percent to two and a quarter percent. The outlook for the U.S. economy remains favorable and this action is designed to support that outlook. It is intended to ensure against downside risks from weak global growth and trade policy uncertainty. To help offset the effects these factors are currently having on the economy and to promote a faster return of inflation to our symmetric 2 percent objective. All of these objectives will support the achievement of our overarching goal to sustain the expansion with a strong job market and inflation close to our objective for the benefit of the American people."
2. SOUNDBITE (English) Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve:
"We continue to expect that inflation will return over time to 2 percent. But domestic inflation pressures remain muted and global disinflation inflationary pressures persist. Wages are rising but not at a pace that would put much upward pressure on inflation. We're mindful that inflation is returned to 2 percent may be further delayed. And that continued below-target inflation could lead to a worrisome and difficult to reverse downward slide in longer-term expectations."
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve:
"Let me be clear what I said was it's not the beginning of a long series of rate cuts. I didn't say it's just one or anything like that. What I said is when you think about rate-cutting cycles they go on for a long time and the committee's not seeing that and not seeing us in that place. You would do that if you saw real economic weakness and you thought that the federal funds rate needed to be cut a lot. That's not what we're seeing. That's not we're seeing. What we're seeing is that it's appropriate to adjust policy to a somewhat more accommodative stance over time. And that's how we're looking at it. What I said was it's not a long cutting cycle. In other words, referring to what we do when there's a recession or a very severe downturn that's what that's really what I was ruling out."
The Federal Reserve cut its key interest rate Wednesday for the first time in a decade to try to counter threats ranging from uncertainties caused by President Donald Trump's trade wars to chronically low inflation and a dim global outlook.
Stocks tumbled soon after the Fed issued its statement at 2 p.m. Eastern time.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which had been nearly flat before the announcement, sank about 300 points an hour later just as Chairman Jerome Powell was holding a news conference. Investors seemed disappointed that Powell said the Fed doesn't envision a long series of rate cuts to follow Wednesday's.
But later in his news conference, he seemed to shift his message to leave open the possibility that the Fed would cut rates again. Stocks then pared their losses.
The central bank reduced its benchmark rate — which affects many loans for households and businesses — by a quarter-point to a range of 2% to 2.25%. It's the first rate cut since December 2008 during the depths of the Great Recession, when the Fed slashed its rate to a record low near zero and kept it there until 2015. The economy is far healthier now despite risks to what's become the longest expansion on record.
In addition to its rate cut, the Fed also said it would stop shrinking its enormous bond portfolio in August, two months earlier than planned.
This step is intended to avoid putting upward pressure on long-term borrowing rates. The Fed had aggressively bought Treasury and mortgage bonds after the financial crisis to drive down long-term rates but had been gradually shrinking its balance sheet as the economy strengthened.
The Fed's action Wednesday was approved 8-2 vote, with two dissents: Esther George, president of the Fed's Kansas City regional bank, and Eric Rosengren, head of the Boston Fed, wanted to keep rates unchanged. It was the first time there have been as many as two dissents since December 2017 and suggested that Powell may face opposition if he seeks further rate cuts this year.
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