After a night of market carnage in Asia, interest rate cuts are the new world order of the day. But so far, investors are unimpressed
Talk about your new world orders: On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank both sharply cut interest rates. Canada, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Sweden all followed suit. In recent days, China, Hong Kong, and Australia have also cut rates.
Economic growth is slowing everywhere and investors are rattled, everywhere.
The moves followed some stunning stock market declines from around the world. Japan’s Nikkei index fell 9.4 percent — it’s worst day since 1984. Hong Kong fell 8.2 percent — despite cutting interest rates by a full point. Indonesia’s stock market fell 10 percent — and is closed until further notice.
90 minutes after trading opened in New York, it was unclear whether the rate cuts were having an effect on soothing investor sensibilities. The Dow was down 76, and the S&P 500 and NASDAQ were both in negative territory.
Friday: Congress passed a $700 billion rescue plan. Tuesday: The Fed announced a plan to start buying short term debt directly from businesses. Wednesday: a half point rate cut that brings the Fed Funds rate close to the rock bottom levels engineered by Alan Greenspan in the aftermath of the dot-com bust.
Is there any good news to be mined from what the Wall Street Journal calls an act of “unprecedented global coordination?” Perhaps this: Inflation is not considered a problem, any more. It seems hard to imagine but it wasn’t more than a few months ago when the rising cost of gasoline and scores of commodities, from rice to steel to milk, was a pressing concern. Not so much, any more. Corn futures, for example, fell this week to the lowest point since last November. The price of a barrel of crude oil dropped under $90 Wednesday morning.
Thank goodness for small favors.
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