Tumbling commodities prices and weaker consumer spending are slowing inflation, which officials described as a ``significant concern'' at their last scheduled meeting in September. Tomorrow, the Commerce Department will probably report that the economy shrank at a 0.5 percent annual rate in the third quarter, the most since the 2001 recession, economists predict.
He predicted the benchmark rate will be cut by half a point today, matching the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Bernanke and his team could push borrowing costs to zero by June if the credit crunch intensifies, Gertler said.
The Fed has already cut the benchmark rate from 5.25 percent in the past 13 months and created six lending programs channeling more than $1 trillion into the financial system. Banks are still reluctant to lend to each other and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index is down almost 36 percent this year, even after yesterday's surge.
The FOMC is scheduled to announce its decision on rates at about 2:15 p.m. in Washington.
Payrolls fell last month by 159,000 for the biggest reduction in five years, according to Labor Department figures released on Oct. 3. Retail sales fell 1.2 percent in September, extending their decline to a third consecutive month for the longest slump in at least 16 years.
The Fed cut the main rate to 1 percent in June 2003, leaving it unchanged for a year in response to concerns about deflation. Bullard and Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher have said the low rate stoked inflationary pressures.
Rising prices have faded as a concern in recent months. Americans expect inflation of 2.8 percent over the next five years, the slowest pace in a year, according to the Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment on Oct. 17.