The Fed: Through for a While?

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WASHINGTON: After delivering the cut Tuesday that the markets expected but probably didn't need, the Fed let everyone know, rather loudly, that it's taking a break. "Financial conditions can reasonably be expected to be consistent with fostering sustained economic expansion while keeping inflationary pressures subdued," it said. Translation: We're good for a while.

That put a damper on the markets Tuesday, but it doesn't necessarily mean Alan Greenspan won't cut rates at the next Fed meeting, or the meeting after that. He just wants you to be surprised if he does. "In retrospect, Greenspan had painted himself into a corner before this cut," says TIME Wall Street columnist Daniel Kadlec. "He had signaled that it was coming, and he risked a bad market reaction if he didn't cut." Now, with expectations back at zero, says Kadlec, "Greenspan can do whatever he wants."

Good news for U.S. borrowers: U.S. banks followed the Fed's lead and cut prime lending rates.