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Fed News   Announcement: Sept. 18, 2007
  The Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee made a decision  
  on key short-term interest rates.  
Winners and losers

What the Fed said: a translation

The Federal Reserve and regular Americans are separated by a common language. Granted, under Chairman Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve's rate policy statements are easier to understand than they were under Alan Greenspan. But still, a translation is handy.

Here's what the Fed said Sept. 18, and what it meant in plain English.

FED: The Federal Open Market Committee decided today to lower its target for the federal funds rate 50 basis points to 4-3/4 percent. Translation: The Federal Reserve's rate-setting Open Market Committee cut the target for the federal funds rate half a percentage point, to 4.75 percent.
FED: Economic growth was moderate during the first half of the year, but the tightening of credit conditions has the potential to intensify the housing correction and to restrain economic growth more generally. Today's action is intended to help forestall some of the adverse effects on the broader economy that might otherwise arise from the disruptions in financial markets and to promote moderate growth over time. Translation: Economic growth was moderate during the first half of the year. But it's harder for consumers and corporations to get credit now, and that could intensify the slowdown in home sales and the slide in housing costs. Cutting rates is intended to keep the credit crunch from spilling over into the broader economy and to goose the overall economy.
FED: Readings on core inflation have improved modestly this year. However, the Committee judges that some inflation risks remain, and it will continue to monitor inflation developments carefully. Translation: Inflation has grown tamer this year. But there's a risk that inflation will kick it up a notch. The Fed will keep an eye on that.
FED: Developments in financial markets since the Committee's last regular meeting have increased the uncertainty surrounding the economic outlook. The Committee will continue to assess the effects of these and other developments on economic prospects and will act as needed to foster price stability and sustainable economic growth. Translation: It's not only harder for consumers to get jumbo and subprime mortgages, corporations are having to work harder to find short-term debt. Hedge funds and other money managers are afraid to buy and sell mortgage debt, because if they do so, their theoretical losses will become actual losses. In short, credit is harder to come by, and that makes the economic outlook uncertain. The Fed will keep an eye on that, too.
FED: Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; Timothy F. Geithner, Vice Chairman; Charles L. Evans; Thomas M. Hoenig; Donald L. Kohn; Randall S. Kroszner; Frederic S. Mishkin; William Poole; Eric Rosengren; and Kevin M. Warsh. Translation: No one on the committee voted against cutting rates.
FED: In a related action, the Board of Governors unanimously approved a 50-basis-point decrease in the discount rate to 5-1/4 percent. In taking this action, the Board approved the requests submitted by the Boards of Directors of the Federal Reserve Banks of Boston, New York, Cleveland, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City and San Francisco.
Translation: Seven of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks suggested lowering the discount rate, which is what member banks pay the Fed for short-term loans. Cuts in the discount rate used to be more symbolic than substantive, because banks rarely borrowed at the discount window. It was seen as unseemly. But as credit dried up over the summer, the Fed encouraged banks to borrow directly from the central bank via the discount window, and emphasized that there's nothing dishonorable about it. Banks have borrowed billions of dollars via the discount window in recent weeks.
-- Posted: Sept. 18, 2007
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