Fed could go ‘in either direction’ on interest rates: Meeting minutes, Latest Business News - The New Paper

Fed could go ‘in either direction’ on interest rates: Meeting minutes

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WASHINGTON US Federal Reserve members are split between optimism and caution, with some saying an interest rate hike may be still appropriate later this year but others believing they should stand pat, or even cut rates, according to the minutes of last month's policy meeting on Wednesday.

Policymakers signalled their path could "shift in either direction" - raising the possibility of a rate cut - though some central bankers felt raising rates "modestly" later this year could be appropriate if the US economy continues its expansion.

The Fed has not cut the benchmark lending rate in more than a decade, when it slashed rates to zero during the global financial crisis, but raised it four times last year, the final time in December, before abruptly and clearly calling a pause to any more hikes.

Amid a global economic slowdown and US President Donald Trump's seemingly non-stop trade confrontations with other major economies, the mix of views showed policymakers see the economy as healthy but liable to be knocked off course.

The Fed's caution came amid signs of a US slowdown in the first quarter, due especially to sagging consumption, as well as fears of "significant negative effects" from trade tensions and Brexit.

It cited "disappointing" news on global growth and the fact that the US economy got less of a boost from fiscal stimulus than it had anticipated.

Some policymakers pointed to the changes in the so-called yield curve - which measures the spread between short- and longer-term Treasury bond rates - saying it "could portend economic weakening". - AFP