If it was not clear already, the Federal Reserve flashed in huge numbers yesterday that it would stop at nothing to revive the economy.
That was the reaction of Philadelphia-area bankers, economists and investment managers to the Fed's cut in a key interest rate to the record-low range of zero to 0.25 percent. Zero, as in free.
The federal funds rate is what big banks charge each other on overnight loans.
Gerard P. Cuddy, chief executive officer of Beneficial Mutual Bancorp Inc., called the Fed action staggering. "They are throwing it all in," he said.
"The Federal Reserve has clearly made the maximum commitment to stimulate the economy and unfreeze the credit markets," said David R. Kotok, chairman and chief investment officer of Cumberland Advisors Inc., of Vineland, N.J. "They have broadcast that there are no limits to what they will do to avoid deflation or depression."
More important than the federal funds rate cut, said William J. Reuter, chairman and chief executive officer of Susquehanna Bancshares Inc., of Lititz, Pa., was the Fed's reiteration of its commitment to buy large amounts of mortgage-backed securities.
"The net effect of that should be to drive residential rates down," Reuter said. "I'm all in favor of anything we can do to stabilize housing markets and make mortgages more affordable."
Kotok said he believed mortgage rates for loans going through the nationalized mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be 4.5 percent.
"That is down two percentage points in a matter of weeks. The target is to stop the fall in housing prices," Kotok said, "and it is likely to work."
The Fed's commitment to fixing the economy was clear before, "but it was being given in little pieces," said Malcolm C. Wilson, chief investment officer at Davidson Trust Co., of Devon.
He added that the Fed now would have to rely on other mechanisms to stimulate the economy, since it essentially has hit bottom on the fed funds rate. "That rate-cut tool is now off the table."