The Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee yesterday voted to keep short-term interest rates at the current 1.75% -- the lowest rate in more than 40 years.
But something unusual happened in the vote. Two of the 12 voting members argued for a rate cut. It was the first time since 1998 that members voted differently than Chief Alan Greenspan, who headed to England after the meeting to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth. (Really!)
In their statement, the majority voters reasoned that their "accommodative stance of monetary policy, coupled with still robust underlying growth in productivity, should be sufficient to foster an improving business climate." The dissenters were likely worried about continued sliding in consumer confidence and an increase in unemployment and poverty.
A key concern is deflation, which could result from continued sluggishness in our economy. The Fed is believed to be ready to fight that with aggressive interest rate cuts, if necessary. Some foresee a possible future cut of at least half a percentage point.
Be glad you're not a member of the Federal Open Market Committee. Their already difficult job of keeping the economy cranking hasn't gotten any easier lately, what with the recent spate of corporate malfeasance; the ensuing loss of confidence in the stock market coupled with a multi-year bear market; and now the increasing possibility of war against Iraq and heightened global unrest. Yikes.