At the end of the month, the Federal Reserve looks poised to cut interest rates for the first time in more than a decade — but not as deep as some had hoped.
Markets swung in and out of the green Friday as traders digested a slew of comments from Fed officials over the last few days that diminished hopes of a half-point rate cut.
The Dow Jones industrial average ended the day down 68.77 points — or 0.3% — at 27,154.20, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq shed 0.6% and 0.7%, respectively.
“I’d like to go 25 basis points at the upcoming meeting,” James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis — and a noted dove — said Friday.
Bullard’s comments looked like an attempt to clarify controversial remarks by Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John Williams on Thursday.
Williams said the Fed should “take swift action when faced with adverse economic conditions” — leading Fed watchers to calculate that there was a better than 50% chance the Fed would cut rates by a half point, rather than a mere quarter point.
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But a spokesperson for Williams later claimed he was only making an “academic” argument, not advocating for the action the Federal Open Market Committee will take at its two-day meeting on July 30-31.
The walk-back earned a swift rebuke from investors on Wall Street.
It’s “amateur hour at the Fed,” Neil Dutta, head of economics at Renaissance Macro Research, said in a note Friday.
“Of course the market would latch on to a speech like this — given focus and timing — right before the July confab,” Dutta said.
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President Trump, who has long advocated for the Fed to lower interest rates, also weighed in.
“I like New York Fed President John Williams first statement much better than his second. His first statement is 100% correct in that the Fed ‘raised’ far too fast & too early,” Trump said on Twitter.
“Don’t blow it!” he urged the Fed in a later tweet.
By Friday afternoon, the fed funds futures implied an only 18.5% chance of the Fed lowering rates by a half point, according to Bloomberg data.