By and  on December 17, 2008

The Federal Reserve threw fiscal caution to the wind Tuesday, lowering interest rates to practically zero as consumer prices sank a record-breaking 1.7 percent in November and all signs pointed to a worsening of the yearlong recession.

Although economists said more will need to be done to get the nation’s finances fixed, investors reacted positively to the no-holds-barred approach to monetary policy and pushed the Standard & Poor’s Retail Index up 5.3 percent, or 14.38 points, to 285.36. Retail shares outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which closed up 4.2 percent, or 359.61 points, to 8,924.14 largely because of a post-rate-cut rally in the afternoon. Unlike many afternoon rallies in the last few months, this one held up as the final bell approached. [For a chart of the day’s biggest gainers and losers, see page 12.]

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