Chairman Jerome Powell’s frequent assurance that sustaining the U.S. economic expansion is the Federal Reserve’s “overarching’’ goal is opening the door to potentially aggressive interest-rate cuts. The timing, size and whether such moves are indeed in his plans may become clearer when Powell and his colleagues meet on Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington.
While investors are agitating for the Fed to shift, economists don’t see a move this week and are divided on whether officials will cut at all in 2019. The median estimate of Bloomberg’s most recent survey shows a quarter point reduction in December, though it was a close call.
The suspicion of a number of Fed watchers, though, is that the hint of a sustained slowdown would be enough for the Fed to move, and that policy makers will acknowledge that readiness this week. One reason is that the chairman has signaled he’s concerned about how just low rates still are, meaning it may be better to act sooner and avoid a recession than wait and find the economy slumping with the Fed having limited room to act.