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Sending an SOS to the Federal Reserve

Stephen Moore on

To keep the economy from a further growth slowdown, the Fed must inject more dollar liquidity into the global economy -- immediately.

The next Fed rate cut cannot wait until September. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell should call an emergency meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee and cut rates in the next few days. Waiting another month will only prolong economic uncertainty. We need the Fed for once to be proactive.

All of the financial data of the last week -- the strengthening of the dollar, the super low 1.75% interest rate on 10-year Treasuries, the inversion of the yield curve, the drop in the five-year TIPS spread to 1.3% and the big fall in commodity prices (except gold) -- are screaming out the same SOS message to the Fed: There is a dangerous and worsening global dollar shortage.

Our friends at The Wall Street Journal are calling the recent market sell-off the "Navarro Recession" -- a deserved poke at the pro-tariff policies of White House economic adviser Peter Navarro. Donald Trump has embraced that strategy.

Yes, the escalation of the trade and tariff war is hurting growth and triggered this latest crisis. Alas, there is nothing the Fed can do about the trade stalemate. But what the Fed can reverse is the dollar liquidity crisis.

On this issue, President Trump has been consistently right over the past year. And Fed Chairman Powell has been tragically wrong, wrong, wrong.

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The Fed's job is to supply the world with the dollars that the global markets are screaming for. (The Fed's tight money policy hasn't just hurt growth in the United States but in much of the rest of the world as well, because the dollar is the global currency.)

The Fed should cut the federal funds rate by 50 basis points. It should also cut the Fed's "interest on excess reserves" rate by a full percentage point, from 2.10% to 1.10%. The IOER is the equivalent of a one-day T-bill, and a cut of this magnitude is needed to make the yield curve positive. Lowering the IOER will jump-start bank lending, as the bribe to lenders for sitting on money is reduced.

The Federal Open Market Committee should also announce that it will follow the advice of Judy Shelton, whom the president has advanced as a candidate for the Fed's Board of Governors, and that it will be phasing the IOER out completely. We recommend that they further reduce the IOER rate by 2 basis points per trading day until it is back to zero.

It's time for the Fed to finally admit that the IOER -- paying banks to sit on money rather than allowing it to circulate -- has always been a bad idea. The Fed's commencement of paying interest on bank reserves on Oct. 9, 2008, contributed to the financial crisis. And with all due respect to the learned Ph.D.s at the Fed, we don't need another one of those right now.

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