Weak Reports May Spur Fed to Cut Rates

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

A flurry of weak economic reports left the door wide open for the Federal Reserve to cut short-term interest rates this week, analysts said.

The Conference Board said consumer confidence fell to a nine-year low in October, and auto makers reported sharply lower sales for the month. The week ended with the government saying the unemployment rate edged up to 5.7% in October from 5.6% in September.

All told, the data suggested the economy had lost its momentum. That will allow the Fed to justify reducing its key short-term rate -- already at a 40-year low of 1.75% -- by at least a quarter point when policymakers meet Wednesday, many experts predicted.