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KAI RYSSDAL: We all know the Chairman of the Federal Reserve is first among equals when it comes to monetary policy. But Ben Bernanke doesn’t necesarily hold all the cards. Because when we talk about the Fed and interest rates, what we’re actually making reference to is something called the Federal Open Market Committee. The 12 central bankers who actually vote on interest rates. In the past 24 hours three separate members of the FOMC have said they don’t think there needs to be another rate cut. Ordinarily that kind of news would land on page 13 of the business section. But Wall Streeters who’ve been absorbing the recent raft of bad economic news have already started counting on the Fed to help them out. From Washington, Marketplace’s John Dimsdale reports.
JOHN DIMSDALE: FedEx today cut its earnings forecast for the year, citing higher fuel costs and declining demand for deliveries. FedEx and other shippers are considered bellwethers of the overall economy’s health.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve Board reported there was a half percent drop in industrial production last month. The tumble hit just about every manufacturing sector, from autos to housing to utilities. Economist Nigel Gault of Global Insight expects U.S. manufacturing output will decline for the last quarter of the year.
NIGEL GAULT: Anything related to housing is going down very sharply. The consumer is starting to pull back. The only place that’s really strong is exports. And that’s not enough at the moment to offset the weakness in housing and consumption.
While conceding the economy is going through a, quote, “rough patch,” Fed Governor Randall Kroszner today said he doesn’t foresee the need for more interest rate cuts. But economist Gault thinks the recent spike in oil prices will make consumers more frugal this holiday. And that’s bound to get the Fed’s attention.
GAULT: I think sooner or later they’re going to have to change their minds. I think the economy will probably be weaker than they are anticipating. Whether they change their minds as early as December, that’s another question.
But for now Fed members are signaling they’re more concerned about inflation than recession. And financial markets have scaled back their expectations of another interest rate cut this year.
In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.
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