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Economy

U.S. Fed expected to leave rates unchanged in first meeting of 2020

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2020-01-29 08:50:02Xinhua Editor : Feng Shuang ECNS App Download

In its first policy meeting of 2020 that began on Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve is widely expected to leave interest rates unchanged despite renewed calls by President Donald Trump to cut rates, analysts have said.

"We expect the Fed to remain comfortably on the sidelines during this meeting. Look for the official statement to underscore the good news in the housing market while lamenting the weakness in manufacturing," Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, a major accounting firm, wrote in an analysis last week.

"Most within the Federal Reserve system are hoping to sit out 2020, but the threshold for a rate cut is still considerably lower than the threshold for a rate hike," Swonk noted, adding U.S. inflation has undershot the Fed's target of 2 percent since it was adopted explicitly in 2012.

However, following three consecutive rate cuts in 2019, Fed officials generally agreed that it would be appropriate to leave rates unchanged "for a time", according to the minutes of the Fed's policy meeting on Dec. 10-11.

"A number of participants agreed that maintaining the current stance of monetary policy would give the Committee some time to assess the full effects on the economy of its policy decisions," the minutes said, referring to the Fed's policy-making committee.

In recent weeks, Fed officials have also publicly expressed their satisfaction with the current level of interest rates, signaling no change in rates anytime soon.

"I don't think we should be making any moves at this point on the fed funds rate," Robert Kaplan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, told CNBC in an interview earlier this month.

His comments were echoed by Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, who predicted that the Fed could go through the entire year without rate changes.

Tom Barkin, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, believed that the Fed has done a lot to support the economy's continued expansion and it's more important to step up on the fiscal side in the current environment.

"That includes trade actions and trade uncertainty, regulatory changes and regulatory uncertainty, geopolitical challenges and domestic politics," Barkin said in a speech in early January, adding the biggest boost to the U.S. economy would come from "lessening the uncertainty and lowering the volume."

While the Fed stressed the importance of independent monetary policy, Trump repeatedly called on the central bank to slash rates to boost the U.S. economy.

"The Fed should get smart &lower the Rate to make our interest competitive with other Countries which pay much lower even though we are, by far, the high standard," Trump tweeted Tuesday.

"We would then focus on paying off &refinancing debt! There is almost no inflation - this is the time (2 years late)!" the president added.

At a press conference in December, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell indicated that it would take a "material reassessment" of U.S. economic outlook before the Fed would change policy.

"If developments emerge that cause a material reassessment of our outlook, we would respond accordingly. Policy is not on a preset course," Powell said.

The Fed lowered rates three times in 2019, amid growing uncertainty stemming from trade tensions, weakness in global growth and muted inflation pressures. These policy adjustments put the current federal funds rate target range at 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent.

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