WASHINGTON - In a rare coordinated move, the Federal Reserve and other major central banks from around the world slashed interest rates Wednesday to prevent a mushrooming financial crisis from becoming a global economic meltdown.
Markets retreated, though, on worries that the move was too little, too late.
The Fed reduced its key rate from 2 percent to 1.5 percent. In Europe, which also has been hard hit by the financial crisis, the Bank of England cut its rate by half a point to 4.5 percent and the European Central Bank sliced its rate by half a point to 3.75 percent.
The central banks of China, Canada, Sweden, and Switzerland also cut rates. The Bank of Japan said it strongly supported the actions.
"The recent intensification of the financial crisis has augmented the downside risks to growth," the Fed said in explaining the coordinated action, the latest in a series of bold moves meant to pry open tight lending and revive the global economy.
The Dow Jones industrials, already down 875 points this week, fell another 150, and all the major indexes were down sharply.
The Fed's action will reduce borrowing costs almost immediately for U.S. bank customers whose home equity and other floating-rate loans are tied to the prime interest rate. Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other banks cut their prime rate by half a point to 4.5 percent after the Fed announcement.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto welcomed the cooperation among the Fed and other countries' central banks to battle the crisis.
The country's presidential contenders also embraced the action. "This is a global crisis that requires a global solution," said Democrat Barack Obama. Republican rival John McCain hoped it would contain the "financial crisis spreading across the globe."