30 Oct 2008

Central banks begin new round of rate cuts

2:56 pm on 30 October 2008

A new round of interest rate cuts by central banks is under way, led by the United States Federal Reserve and China.

The Federal Reserve cut interest rates in the US by a half-percentage point on Wednesday to 1% - the bank's lowest since June 2004.

The decision by the Federal Open Market Committee was unanimous and expected. It came amid a series of cuts by other central banks, with more expected to do so next week.

The Fed has cut benchmark overnight rates from 5.25% in nine steps over the past 13 months to counter a financial crisis that started with the collapse of the US mortgage market and spread around the world.

The Fed hopes the cut will help get credit flowing and "should help over time to improve credit conditions and promote a return to moderate economic growth".

But the BBC reports the bank is running out of interest rates that it can use as a tool for stimulus in future.

Other cuts

China and Norway announced rate cuts earlier on Wednesday.

The People's Bank of China cut its interest rate by 0.27% from 6.93% to 6.66%. It is the third cut by the central bank in the past six weeks and will take effect on Thursday.

Norway's central bank cut its interest rate by 0.5%, to 4.75% - it was the second half-point reduction this month.

The Bank of England and European Central Bank are also expected to cut rates next week.

Interest rates in the United Kingdom are currently at 4.5%. The ECB interest rate for the eurozone stands at 3.75%.

The Reserve Bank of Australia is expected to cut its rate next Tuesday and again in December. It last lowered the rate from 7% to 6% on 7 October.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand cut the Official Cash rate from 7.5% to 6.5% on 23 October.