October 15, 2019 / 6:04 PM / a month ago

Narrow majority of Fed banks wanted to keep discount rate unchanged: minutes

FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve building is pictured in Washington, DC, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Seven out of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks wanted to leave unchanged the rate commercial banks are charged for emergency loans ahead of the U.S. central bank’s last policy meeting, minutes from the discussion of the discount rate showed on Tuesday.

Despite that, the Fed decided to lower the discount rate to 2.50% from 2.75% at its Sept. 17-18 meeting at the same time that it cut its benchmark overnight lending rate by a quarter of a percentage point to a target range of between 1.75% and 2.00%.

Directors of the Fed banks of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, Cleveland, Atlanta and Kansas City all wished to maintain the existing discount rate, citing a “strong labor market and inflation near its symmetric 2% objective.”

The directors of the Fed banks of Minneapolis, Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco pushed for the quarter-percentage-point cut in the discount rate that was ultimately implemented.

The discord echoes the debate among U.S. central bank policymakers about how much slowing global growth and the fallout from the Trump administration’s trade wars are harming the U.S. economy.

Policymakers are split into those who think the Fed’s two interest rate cuts this year suffice for now to keep the longest economic expansion on record going, others who think the Fed should lower borrowing costs more, and some who see a rate rise by the end of the year, according to projections released last month.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard called for a half-percentage-point cut at the Fed’s September policy meeting. Directors of the St. Louis Fed likewise wanted the discount rate cut to 2.25% ahead of the meeting, the minutes showed.

Investors currently expect another reduction in borrowing costs when the Fed’s rate-setting committee next meets at the end of this month.

Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Paul Simao

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