Feds and the Rates

pay interest on car loans, credit card balances and mortgages. They earn interest, at least a little, on the money they save with banks.

Technically speaking, Federal Reserve officials did not touch any of those rates when they announced a quarter-point interest-rate cut on Wednesday, the first cut in a decade. The rate they reduced is the federal funds rate, which is what banks and other financial institutions charge one another for very short-term borrowing.

Most consumers don’t do that sort of overnight borrowing, but the Fed’s moves still affect the borrowing and saving rates they encounter every day.

The effect is not always direct or immediate, so consumers probably will not wake up on Thursday to find that all of their favorite rates have changed by a quarter of a point. There is even solid evidence that the mere expectation that the Fed would cut rates on Wednesday had already pushed down some of the key rates that consumers pay.

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