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US Federal Reserve cuts US rates to near zero

The US Federal Reserve has tonight cut rates back to near zero, restarted bond buying and launched other measures from its crisis-era toolkit.

The measures are part of efforts by other central banks to put the floor under a rapidly disintegrating global economy assailed by efforts to contain the escalating coronavirus pandemic.

“The effects of the coronavirus will weigh on economic activity in the near term and pose risks to the economic outlook. In light of these developments, the Committee decided to lower the target range,” the Fed said.

The Fed cut rates to a target range of 0% to 0.25% and said it would expand its balance sheet by at least $700 billion in the coming weeks.

“The Committee expects to maintain this target range until it is confident that the economy has weathered recent events and is on track to achieve its maximum employment and price stability goals,” it said.

In other moves, the Fed encouraged banks to use the trillions of dollars in equity and liquid assets built up as capital buffers since the financial crisis to lend to business and households whose balance sheets and lives have been upended by the virus.

The Fed and five other major foreign central banks also cut pricing on their swap lines to make it easier to provide dollars to their financial institutions facing stress in credit markets.

The Fed, the Bank of Canada, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank set up swap lines in the financial crisis.

The Fed already cut interest rates by half a percentage point on March 3 at an emergency meeting, the first rate cut outside of a regularly scheduled policy meeting since the financial crisis in 2008.

Policymakers were not due to hold their next interest-rate setting meeting until March 17-18.

US President Donald Trump called the move “terrific” and “very good news.”

Tonight’s joint move by the world’s top six central banks to increase access to US dollars will help to improve liquidity and ease strains in global funding markets, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said. 

“Today’s coordinated action by major central banks will improve global liquidity by lowering the price and extending the maximum term of U.S. dollar lending operations,” Mark Carney said in a joint statement with Andrew Bailey, who succeeds him as Bank of England Governor tomorrow.

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