Is Ben Bernanke hinting that an interest rate cut might be the Fed's next move, and maybe earlier than the next Fed meeting?
Bernanke's comments on the financial crisis enveloping the banks included a side trip into the outlook for consumer spending, which the Fed chairman predicted would be "sluggish at best."
Traders increased bets on a quarter-point rate cut at or before the Fed's next meeting, Oct. 28 and 29, notes Bloomberg News. The probability implied in futures contracts jumped to 80 percent from 58 percent in one day.
The contracts suggested a 98 percent chance by December, Reuters calculated.
The Fed is now at 2 percent, down from 5.25 percent in a series of cuts beginning in September 2007. The rate has been steady since April.
Bernanke is just one voice on a committee that must agree on any action, and a rate cut is far from guaranteed.
But the chairman is also widely recognized as an activist in matters of money supply.
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