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Chicago Fed’s Charles Evans Hints at Further Rate Cuts, Gold Prices Rise

Charles Evans of the Chicago Federal Reserve made statements on Wednesday morning to comment on the Fed’s monetary policy on interest rates, as well as the current state of the economy. Evans took a dovish approach, signaling that more rate cuts may be on the horizon.

Key Takeaways

  • Evans stated that further rate cuts may be necessary, and that the July rate cut was necessary due to ongoing economic headwinds.
  • Evans’ statements come a day after St. Louis Fed’s James Bullard voiced his expectations for another singular rate cut to be implemented this year.

Evans expressed his support for the recently implemented interest rate cuts, the first of their kind in over a decade, which the central bank agreed on in July. The rate cuts were implemented due to tame inflation pressure, a global economic slowdown, and a trade war with China making itself felt in struggling areas of the US economy, such as the manufacturing industry.

Evans stated that “more policy accommodation” was needed following the July rate cut, indicating that further cuts may be necessary – this falls in line with recent comments made by St. Louis Fed’s James Bullard who predicted another rate cut to be implemented during 2019.

Evans stressed the urge for economic vigilance during these volatile times, citing the trade negotiations as a main source of volatility and uncertainty. He stated that the Fed is now aiming for 50 basis points below the neutral interest rate, rather than 50 points above.

The long-term neutral rate is 2.75% which could be even lower in the future. Evans predicts a US GDP growth of 2.25% for 2019 overall, and pointed out that the labor market still looks to be in good health despite pressure from other areas of the economy such as housing and manufacturing which have shown consistent weak performance. Evans added that a slowdown in the labor market would pose a risk to the current period of economic expansion.

Evans indicated that the US can continue pursuing its accommodative stance when it comes to inflation, adding that the inflation outlook as it stands actually calls for increased policy accommodation. Evans is a voting member on the FOMC, the council of Fed executives that decide monetary policy such as interest rate cuts.

Expert Outlook

“The consumer is feeling good about the employment situation and being able to find a job. Anything that causes changes to those important fundamentals would be a concern,” said Evans.

He said that while last year’s goal was to get the benchmark interest rate to 50 basis points above the 2.75% neutral rate, he now sees the requirement as being the opposite.

“Basically adjusting from 50 [basis points] above neutral to something like 50 below neutral is sort of the mid-cycle adjustment I have in mind going forward here.”

 “We’re kind of looking at data, we’re kind-of looking to see to see how things are going to proceed, whether or not there is sort of an acceleration of something not very pleasant or whether or not we’ll have more continuity,” he said.

Market Reaction

The stocks, precious metals, and treasuries markets have all seen a turbulent day, today with much of the volatility attributed to uncertainty over the US/China trade war negotiations. Following sell-offs in stocks and treasuries, gold prices have risen 2.10%, with spot gold trading at $1,503.27/oz.

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