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Federal Reserve policymakers divided over US rate cuts

Jerome Powell and Donald Trump Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Donald Trump called Fed chairman Jerome Powell "clueless"

The US Federal Reserve debated cutting interest rates more aggressively last month, according to minutes from the central bank's last meeting.

Some officials pressed for a 0.5 percentage point cut, rather than the 0.25 percentage point reduction announced. Others resisted any change.

The differences, in minutes released on Wednesday, come as Donald Trump presses for a one percentage point cut.

The minutes show that the Fed did not discuss the president's criticism.

After four rate increases last year, the last one in December, the Fed has been under relentless pressure from Mr Trump to stimulate the economy by reversing course and slashing rates.

The minutes show a broad concern among the 12 Fed policymakers over a global economic slowdown, a US-China trade war, and sluggish inflation.

"A couple of participants indicated that they would have preferred a 50 basis point cut," according to the minutes, which added that policymakers favouring such a move were concerned by inflation being too low.

'Flexible'

The July rate cut was viewed as "part of a recalibration... or mid-cycle adjustment" and, given the global economic uncertainties, the officials "highlighted the need for policymakers to remain flexible and focused on the implications of incoming data for the outlook".

Fed chairman Jerome Powell, dubbed "clueless" is one Twitter attack by Mr Trump, acknowledged at his news conference on 31 July that the rate cut was meant as insurance "against downside risks from weak global growth and trade policy uncertainty, to help offset the effects these factors are having on the economy".

"The Fed clearly wants to be flexible," said Willie Delwiche, investment analyst at Baird. "They are clearly worried about some of the global tensions that are out there, whether it is trade or Brexit or some of those international developments."

And it comes amid uncertainty over whether Mr Trump feels some sort of economic stimulus is needed. On Tuesday, he hinted at the need for cuts in payroll tax and capital gains tax, only to dismiss the idea on Wednesday.

Analysts will be hoping that Mr Powell can provide more clarity on Friday when he is due to give a speech during a meeting of global central bankers at the annual Jackson Hole meeting in Wyoming.

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