* Williams says Fed should take pre-emptive measures
* Dollar blips up after NY Fed says Williams comments academic
* Graphic: World FX rates in 2019 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh
By Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO, July 19 (Reuters) - The dollar was on the defensive on Friday after Federal Reserve officials bolstered expectations of an aggressive rate cut this month to address weakening price pressures.
At a central banking conference on Thursday, New York Fed President John Williams argued for pre-emptive measures to avoid having to deal with too low inflation and interest rates.
Although a New York Fed representative subsequently said Williams’ comments were academic and not about immediate policy direction, investors still took his remarks along with separate comments from Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida as a dovish signal from the central bank.
The dollar stood at 107.42 yen, up 0.15% in early trade, having hit a three-week low of 107.21 on Thursday while the euro also slipped 0.15% to $1.12555 from $1.1282. On the week, the dollar is down 0.4% versus the yen and almost flat on the euro.
The dollar index, which hit a two-week low of 96.648, bounced to 96.824.
The greenback fell broadly on Thursday after Williams’ remarks bolstered bets that the Fed would cut interest rates by 50 basis points, rather than 25 basis points.
Williams said when rates and inflation are low, policymakers cannot afford to keep their “powder dry” and wait for potential economic problems to materialise.
That is especially true with neutral rates that would neither restrict nor accelerate the U.S. economy “around half a percent,” he said. When adjusted for inflation, the neutral rate is near the Fed’s current policy rate, which is in a range of 2.25-2.50%.
Financial markets quickly reacted, with money market futures pricing in almost a 70% chance of a 50 basis point cut at its policy meeting on July 30-31 at one point.
The odds eased to around 40% after the New York Fed said later that his speech was not about potential actions at the upcoming policy meeting.
Still, Williams’ rate-cut view was echoed by Fed Vice Chair Clarida, who told Fox Business Network the central bank might have to act early and not wait “until things get so bad”.
“Williams’ comments were surprisingly dovish. The NY Fed went all the way to try to modify the message but no one seems to have done so for Clarida, who also said a very similar thing,” said Daisuke Uno, chief strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Bank. (Reporting by Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Sam Holmes)