At a news conference after the Federal Reserve’s final meeting of the year, Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank had faced down an array of challenges in 2019. The economy, which had grown at close to 3% in 2018, slowed sharply in 2019, buffeted by global weakness and President Donald Trump’s trade war with China. In response, the Fed reversed course from having raised interest rates four times in 2018 to cutting them three times in 2019. Powell told reporters that he was “pleased that we moved to support the economy the way we did.”
This month, the Fed left its benchmark rate unchanged and signaled that it may leave rates alone through 2020. The central bank’s latest forecasts foresee the economy growing more slowly in coming years than the 3% forecast being made by the Trump administration. They also project that the Fed’s benchmark rate will remain unchanged in 2020. This year’s rate cuts have helped lower consumer and business rates. The 30-year fixed mortgage now averages 3.7%, down from 4.6% a year ago.