On The Money: Fed holds rates steady | Dems hint they are open to border deal with Trump | House plans hearing on bill requiring presidential tax returns

On The Money: Fed holds rates steady | Dems hint they are open to border deal with Trump | House plans hearing on bill requiring presidential tax returns

Happy Wednesday and welcome back to On The Money. I'm Sylvan Lane, and here's your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

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THE BIG DEAL--Fed holds steady on rates after record shutdown: The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady on Wednesday following the record-long government shutdown -- and amid growing concern about the future strength of the U.S. economy.

The bank's Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) announced at the end of its first meeting of the year that it would keep the federal funds rate at a range of 2.25 to 2.5 percent.

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The Fed was widely expected to hold off on a hike after raising rates in December, the fourth increase in 2018 and ninth since 2015. Senior Fed officials, including Chairman Jerome Powell, had hinted at a pause in rate hikes in speeches and public interviews throughout January.

Powell said Wednesday that the Fed is "patiently awaiting greater clarity" in a "somewhat contradictory picture" as the economy's continued strength faces threats from waning global growth and geopolitical factors. I break down the Fed's decision here.

 

The background: The Fed is attempting to navigate murky economic waters after the five-week partial government shutdown, the longest shutdown in U.S. history that only ended on Friday, and amid spreading fears of an impending global slowdown.

  • Powell cited the potential turmoil caused by economic slowness in Europe and China, a messy divorce for the United Kingdom and European Union and interminable trade battles: "The cross currents I mentioned suggest the risk of a less favorable outlook."
  • The International Monetary Fund last week slashed its projections for global growth, and economists expect the U.S. to fall below 3 percent annualized GDP growth in 2019. Some major tech companies and manufacturers are reporting lackluster earnings driven by a plunge in global demand, particularly from China.

 

The decision: Fed officials have touted the strength of the U.S. economy but say they're approaching the cloudy economic picture with patience. With inflation staying below the Fed's 2 percent target despite a tight U.S. labor market, FOMC members have signaled a desire to hold off on rate hikes for now.

"The case for raising rates has weakened somewhat," Powell said Wednesday. "We think that our policy stance is appropriate right now."

 

LEADING THE DAY

Dems signal flexibility at border meeting: Democrats on Wednesday strongly suggested they are open to a compromise with President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 MORE even as they unveiled an initial proposal for securing the border that includes no physical barriers.

Democratic leaders emerged from a bipartisan budget meeting on border security taking a hard line on the Trump's proposed border wall, while hinting they were open to a deal.

"We will expand on the $1.6 billion for border security-related programs that House Democrats have already passed," House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyTrolling of Bill Barr shows how language is twisted to politics Barr says Mueller report will be released 'within a week' Live coverage: Barr faces House panel amid questions over Mueller report MORE (D-N.Y.) said at a conference committee meeting.

She said "smart" border security would not be "overly reliant" on physical barriers but on "better technology and more personnel," a phrasing that left open the possibility of barriers. The Hill's Niv Elis and Mike Lillis explain here.

 

House to hold hearing on bill requiring release of presidential tax returns: A House panel is planning to hold a hearing next week on the portion of House Democrats' good-government bill that would require presidents to release their tax returns, according to a House Democratic aide.

The hearing is expected to be held Feb. 7 by the House Ways and Means Committee's oversight subcommittee. It is part of a series of hearings that Democrats are holding on their ethics package, known as H.R 1.

Under the legislation, presidents, vice presidents and major-party candidates for those offices would be required to disclose 10 years of tax returns with the Federal Election Commission. The FEC would then make the documents publicly available. The Hill's Naomi Jagoda breaks it down here.



GOOD TO KNOW 

 

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Facebook finished 2018 with record profits despite a string of privacy scandals and public relations crises that have brought the company under tough regulatory scrutiny.
  • Joshua Tree National Park missed out on collecting more than $1 million in entrance fees during the partial federal government shutdown, the park's leader said Wednesday.