The Federal Reserve did not change interest rates Wednesday but strongly signaled a willingness to cut soon to prevent the economy from slowing further. President Trump has urged the central bank to cut rates for months to boost growth.

Business investment is slowing, uncertainty has increased, and the U.S. economy is growing at a “moderate” pace, the Fed said Wednesday, a notable downgrade from last month when the central bank characterized the economy as “solid.”

The Fed indicated it would take action if the economy shows any more signs of decline.

“In light of these uncertainties and muted inflation pressures, the [Fed] committee will closely monitor the implications of incoming information for the economic outlook and will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion,” the Fed wrote in a statement.

Wall Street investors are widely anticipating a rate reduction when Fed leaders meet next in late July because of Trump’s trade war and slumping business investment, especially in manufacturing.

The Fed removed the word “patient” from the statement, the clearest indication yet that the central bank is likely to cut rates soon. One Fed leader voted to cut rates at this meeting but was overruled.

The Fed didn’t specify when it would decrease rates, but nearly half of Fed leaders now predict rates will fall by the end of the year, a significant change from March when none of the 17 Fed policymakers anticipated a cut this year.

Seven of the 17 are forecasting two rate decreases by the end of 2019, according to projections that were also released Wednesday.

Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell has been clear that he will do whatever it takes to keep the economy thriving for as long as possible.

Powell expressed concern about Trump’s escalating trade war in a speech earlier this month and indicated the central bank might reduce rates to counterbalance the negative effects of the trade fights. But it remains unclear how ugly the trade war will get between the U.S. and China and how quickly the Fed should act.

On Tuesday, Trump suggested he might try to remove Powell from the top leadership post at the Fed if Powell does not lower rates soon. Powell, a Republican who was nominated by Trump for the job, but has been a frequent target of the president’s ire after raising interest rates four times last year.

Fed leaders are only allowed to be removed “for cause,” which has been interpreted as criminal wrongdoing. Having a central bank that makes decisions independent of politics is widely viewed by Wall Street and business leaders as fundamental to a strong economy, but Trump believes lower interest rates could help the economy and boost his chances of reelection in 2020.


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