NEW YORK - Economists are saying the Federal Reserve may reduce interests rate once more before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
The timing of such a move will depend in large part on economic indicators, and any decision will be complicated by the recent decline of the dollar against other major currencies.
But economists said the Fed might ease before the election, to avoid sending the wrong signal to a new administration that might be bent on curing economic ills with fiscal measures.
A motivation for easing remains as long as growth looks disappointing. Some economists believe the next easing could be timed to coincide with the release on Sept. 4 of August employment data, which many expect will be weak.
An easing so timed would also deflect criticism that the Fed is aiming to help the current administration in an election year.
"You are likely to see easing, but the timing will be keyed to economic information, to avoid making it look political," said Edward McKelvey, an economist at Goldman, Sachs & Co.
Allen Sinai, chief economist at Boston Company Economic Advisors, said the probability of another easing would grow if the economy failed to show some bounce after Labor Day - Sept. 7 - when the economy tends to pick up steam.
Previous Cuts Ineffective
Economists are disappointed by the faint pace of the recovery, which has been running for more than a year with no major growth spurt. Interest rates are already extremely low by most measures.
The Federal Reserve discount rate, which was cut by 50 basis points July 2 - after the report of weak June jobs data - is now at 3%. That is the lowest in nearly 30 years and roughly level with inflation. But economists say the Fed, by its own arguments, may still be in a position to ease.
The economy will have a hard time meeting growth expectations for 1992, measured from fourth quarter 1991 to fourth quarter 1992, of 2.25% to 2.75%, said Mr. McKelvey. First-half growth averaged 2.1%.
Low inflation, sluggish lending activity, and slow growth in the Federal Reserve's monetary aggregates also argue for easing, economists said.
A Currency Problem
The one sticking point for an easing is the weak dollar, noted Richard Hoey, chief economist at Dreyfus Corp. The low dollar could weigh against further declines in long-term interest rates, if it lessens demand for U.S. Treasury securities with longer maturities.
"The Fed may not be convinced lowering rates per se will do a lot if there is a foreign exchange cost," said Mr. Hoey. Given the worries about foreign exchange risk, he said, the Fed could consider a less direct measure to breathe more life into the economy, such as a move to lower or modify bank reserve requirements.
Seasonal Gain Foreseen
Kevin Flanagan, money market economist at Dean Witter Reynolds Inc., projects an increase of 250,000 in nonfarm payroll jobs, a key indicator in the jobs report that will be minutely examined on Sept. 4. Michael Cloherty, economist at R.H. Wrightson & Associates, expects an increase of 175,000 nonfarm jobs for August.
Both experts said the bulk of the payroll increase would be due-to-temporary summer hirings under government-sponsored programs, and thus would not reflect underlying enonomic strength.
Mr. Flanagan asserted that given the season employment factor, the Fed could ease credit.