To calm financial markets, the Federal Reserve Board has unexpectedly cut the discount rate it charges banks and thrifts for emergency funding by 50 basis points, to 5.75%, and extended the loan terms to 30 days, with the added provision that these credits are renewable.The central bank also made it clear that the depository institutions can use home mortgages and related assets as collateral for these short-term loans. "These changes are designed to provide depositories with greater assurance about the cost and availability of funding," the Federal Reserve said. The Fed's monetary policy committee also issued a statement that lays the groundwork for a future cut in the federal funds rate, which could benefit homeowners who are facing resets on their adjustable-rate mortgages. In acknowledging that financial market conditions have "deteriorated," the committee said, "it is prepared to act as needed to mitigate the adverse effects on the economy arising from disruptions in financial markets."

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