Fed slashes rates to near zero, eases bank lending rules

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Edward Curran, Jonathan Mueller

Traders Edward Curran, left, and Jonathan Mueller work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Thursday, March 12, 2020. The deepening coronavirus crisis is sending stocks into another alarming slide on Wall Street, triggering a brief, automatic shutdown in trading for the second time this week. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve took emergency action Sunday and slashed its benchmark interest rate by a full percentage point to nearly zero and announced it would purchase more Treasury securities to encourage lending to try to offset the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The central bank said the effects of the outbreak will weigh on economic activity in the near term and pose risks to the economic outlook. The central bank said it will keep rates at nearly zero until it feels confident the economy has weathered recent events.

The Fed also said it will purchase $500 billion of Treasury securities and $200 billion of mortgage-backed securities to smooth over market disruptions that have made it hard for banks and large investors to sell Treasuries.

The disruptions bumped up the yield on the 10-year Treasury last week, an unusual move that threatens to push borrowing costs for mortgages and credit cards higher. The Fed also said it has dropped its requirements that banks hold cash reserves in another move to encourage lending.

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