Markets little moved as US Fed delivers rate cut

A trader works as a screen shows Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's news conference after the US Federal Reserve interest rates announcement on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange September 18, 2019. — Reuters pic
A trader works as a screen shows Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's news conference after the US Federal Reserve interest rates announcement on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange September 18, 2019. — Reuters pic

NEW YORK, Sept 19 — Wall Street had a split finish yesterday while other markets kept to the sidelines as the US Federal Reserve announced its second interest rate cut of the year.

As markets widely expected, the Fed cut the benchmark US lending rate by a quarter point.

Policymakers pointed to mounting dangers on the horizon — slowing global growth and US-China trade war that for now has no resolution in sight.

Despite divisions in the Fed's policy-setting committee, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell reassured markets the central bank is willing to take aggressive action should the economy head south.

Following his remarks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average erased a 200-point drop, eking out a minor gain for the day after spending most of the session in the red.

“The market sold off on the fact that the Fed did what they were expected to do and no more,” Peter Cardillo of Spartan Capital told AFP.

“Powell handled himself very well during the Q&A. He was very consistent. The market is relieved at that.”

Earlier, prior to Powell's remarks, Frankfurt and Paris stocks closed marginally higher while London drifted lower.

Sterling meanwhile slid against the US dollar on official data showing weaker UK inflation, but was not far from recent two-month highs reached amid hopes Britain may avoid a no-deal Brexit.

On the oil market, prices dipped further following news that Riyadh will get its two major installations back online earlier than expected, though analysts said there was nervousness on trading floors about oil security in the future.

Oil market on 'tenterhooks'

“Last weekend's serious attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia are continuing to keep the oil market on tenterhooks,” said Commerzbank analysts in a note to clients.

PVM analysts agreed.

“We should not be lulled into a false sense of security. Tensions in the region are still running high and the specter of a further escalation is hanging over the oil market,” they said.

But fears of a military retaliation against Iran — accused of being behind the strikes — are now ebbing.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has this week intervened to keep interest rates in line with the central bank's target by pumping billions of dollars into financial markets. And another so-called repo operation is planned for this morning.

Powell told reporters yesterday the sudden shortage of cash, which necessitated the New York Fed's intervention, was not a concern for the wider economy.

“While these issues are important for market functioning and market participants, they have no implications for the economy or the stance of monetary policy,” he said.

Powell noted that a deadline for corporate tax payments and a surge in Treasury debt issues, converged to temporarily drain cash from the financial system.

“Our sense is that it surprised market participants a lot too,” Powell said. “People were writing about this and publishing stories weeks ago. It was a stronger response than we expected.” — AFP

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