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Fed's Evans 'keeping an open mind' on need for more rate cuts

The Federal Reserve's benchmark interest rate is likely in a "good place right now," Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said Oct. 16, adding that he will be open-minded to arguments that officials should cut rates further this year.

Fed officials are set to meet again on Oct. 29-30, a meeting that many investors expect will result in the central bank's third rate cut of the year.

Evans, who votes on the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee this year, said the Fed's two rate cuts have likely put its benchmark rate at an appropriate level but that he is open to discussing whether more action is needed.

"There is some risk that the economy will have more difficulty navigating all the uncertainties out there or that unexpected downside shocks might hit," Evans said in a speech in Peoria, Ill. "So, there is an argument for more accommodation now to provide some further risk-management buffer against these potential events. I am keeping an open mind to these arguments, which I'm sure we will discuss fully at our meeting later this month."

The Fed "would act aggressively if actually faced with an imminent downturn," he added.

But right now, the outlook for U.S. growth remains positive even if momentum is "clearly slowing" from the 2.5% GDP uptick in 2018, Evans said. He expects U.S. GDP to rise by a bit more than 2% in 2019 due to strong consumer spending that should mitigate weakness in corporate investment and exports.

That means the economy will continue to keep "chugging along at or a bit above" its longer-run growth potential, he said.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and other top Fed officials have said they will "act as appropriate" to ensure continued economic growth and have not pushed back against market expectations of another rate cut this month.

Although most Fed officials have backed the central bank's moves this year, the Fed has been somewhat divided on whether more easing is appropriate, according to minutes of the FOMC's September meeting.