Fed’s Rosengren says cutting rates could worsen next downturn

Fed’s Rosengren says cutting rates could worsen next downturn

Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren on Monday signaled no willingness to support further interest rate cuts, saying that U.S. economic conditions are still good and that easing policy could encourage a worrying debt build-up.

“It is a bigger risk to encourage people to take on too much more risk at this time,” he said in an interview, adding that doing so could worsen the next downturn and leave the Fed with little ammunition to encourage additional spending when it is needed.

“Global conditions are weak. So I’m not saying there aren’t circumstances in which I would be willing to ease. I just want to see evidence that we are actually going into something that’s more of a slowdown.”

Rosengren was one of two dissenting votes at the U.S. central bank on its decision last month to cut borrowing costs for the first time since 2008. Now, he said, he does not currently see a need for any further action.

Markets overwhelmingly expect the Fed to cut rates again at its Sept. 17-18 policy meeting from the current 2.00%-2.25% target. Meanwhile, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is slated to deliver a closely watched speech on Friday at a central bank conclave in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he is likely to weigh in on policy and his economic outlook.

Rosengren said unemployment trends are good and that signs point to inflation rising to the Fed’s 2%-a-year target, with the economy growing around a healthy 2% rate. U.S. monetary and fiscal policy are already “accommodative,” he said, meaning they support further growth.

Investors have been worrying that relatively low long-term U.S. Treasury bond yields point to recession risks. Rosengren said those bond prices reflect global weakness, a real problem, but one that cannot be corrected by lowering U.S. borrowing costs. Policymakers in China and Britain, for instance, will have to respond to economic risks related to protests in Hong Kong and the UK’s exit from the European Union.

Rosengren said disagreeing with the Fed’s policy path has not been easy.

“It’s not easy,” he said. “It’s a consensus-driven organization, and it should be. And so you should only dissent if you strongly disagree with where policy’s going at the time.”

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