Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke may be taking another look at cutting the interest rate the Fed pays on bank reserves to bring down short-term borrowing costs and spur the slowing U.S. expansion.
Bernanke testified to Congress on July 17 that reducing the rate from its current 0.25 percent is one of several easing steps the Fed might take to reduce unemployment stuck above 8 percent for more than three years. In February, by contrast, the Fed chairman told Congress that lowering the rate might drive away investors from short-term money markets.
“They’re reconsidering it,” said Ward McCarthy, a former Richmond Fed economist. A July 5 decision by the European Central Bank to cut its deposit rate to zero is prompting renewed interest in the strategy, said McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies & Co. McCarthy said it’s unlikely the Fed will reduce the rate at a two-day meeting that starts tomorrow.