Rate futures surge as coronavirus seen pushing Fed to ease

(Reuters) – U.S. interest rates futures surged to their highest levels since last fall as a global sell-off in stocks and panicked buying of government bonds fueled growing expectations that the Federal Reserve will soon be forced to respond with interest rate cuts.

The fed funds futures contract tied to the Fed’s July policy meeting FFN0 reflected a probability of more than 80% that the central bank’s benchmark overnight lending rate would be at least a quarter percentage point lower after that meeting’s conclusion. It currently stands at 1.50%-1.75% after three rate cuts last year.

The moves come as Italy, South Korea and Iran all reported sharp increases in the number of coronavirus infections.

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