U.S. Fed Cuts Discount Rate


The Federal Reserve, in an emergency weekend decision, cut the rate on direct loans to commercial banks and opened up borrowing at the rate to primary dealers in government securities.

In an announcement before the start of trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, the Fed lowered its so-called discount rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 3.25 percent. The central bank also approved the financing of JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s purchase of Bear Stearns Cos., including support for as much as $30 billion of Bear's assets.

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is stepping up efforts to keep strains in financial markets from spiraling into a full-blown meltdown. Last week the central bank agreed to emergency loans to a non-bank, Bear Stearns, for the first time since the 1960s. Fed officials also announced a program to swap $200 billion in Treasuries for debt including mortgage-backed securities.

The dollar tumbled to a 12-year low against the yen after the announcement and Treasury notes rallied in Asian trading. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average lost 3.1 percent at 9:35 a.m. in Tokyo.

From tomorrow, primary dealers will be able to borrow at the rate under a new lending facility, to be in place for at least six months, the Fed said. The Fed will accept a ``broad range'' of investment-grade collateral.

Investors expect the Fed to lower its benchmark rate by as much as a full percentage point, to 2 percent, when policy makers meet March 18. That would exceed the 0.75-point emergency reduction on Jan. 22, which is the largest Since the overnight interbank lending rate became the main tool of monetary policy about two decades ago.


TradingEconomics.com, Bloomberg
3/16/2008 7:00:17 PM