Fed Minutes: [Full Transcript]

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performance. Members anticipated that inflation would, over time, return to the Committee’s 2 percent objective, supported by stable inflation expectations and stronger economic activity. However, in light of their concerns about the persistence of low inflation, many members saw a need for the Committee to monitor inflation developments carefully for evidence that inflation was moving back toward its longer-run objective.

In their discussion of monetary policy in the period ahead, most members agreed that the cumulative improvement in labor market conditions and the likelihood that the improvement would be sustained indicated that the Committee could appropriately begin to slow the pace of its asset purchases at this meeting. However, members also weighed a number of considerations regarding such an action, including their degree of confidence in prospects for sustained above-potential economic growth, continued improvement in labor market conditions, and a return of inflation to its mandate-consistent level over time. Some also expressed concern about the potential for an unintended tightening of financial conditions if a reduction in the pace of asset purchases was misinterpreted as signaling that the Committee was likely to withdraw policy accommodation more quickly than had been anticipated. As a consequence, many members judged that the Committee should proceed cautiously in taking its first action to reduce the pace of asset purchases and should indicate that further reductions would be undertaken in measured steps. Members also stressed the need to underscore that the pace of asset purchases was not on a preset course and would remain contingent on the Committee’s outlook for the labor market and inflation as well as its assessment of the efficacy and costs of purchases. Consistent with this approach, the Committee agreed that, beginning in January, it would add to its holdings of agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $35 billion per month rather than $40 billion per month, and add to its holdings of longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $40 billion per month rather than $45 billion per month. While deciding to modestly reduce its pace of purchases, the Committee emphasized that its holdings of longer-term securities were sizable and would still be increasing, which would promote a stronger economic recovery by maintaining downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, supporting mortgage markets, and helping to make broader financial conditions more accommodative. The Committee also reiterated that it will continue its asset purchases, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate, until the outlook for the labor market has improved substantially in a context of price stability. In the view of one member, a reduction in the pace of purchases was premature and, before taking such a step, the Committee should wait for more convincing evidence that economic growth was rising faster than its potential and that inflation would return to the Committee’s 2 percent objective.

In their discussion of forward guidance about the target federal funds rate, a few members suggested that lowering the unemployment threshold to 6 percent could effectively convey the Committee’s intention to keep the target federal funds rate low for an extended period. However, most members wanted to make no change to the threshold and instead preferred to provide qualitative guidance to clarify that a range of labor market indicators would be used when assessing the appropriate stance of policy once the threshold had been crossed. A number of members thought that the forward guidance should emphasize the importance of inflation as a factor in their decisions. Accordingly, almost all members agreed to add language indicating the Committee’s anticipation, based on its current assessment of additional measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial developments, that it would be appropriate to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate well past the time that the unemployment rate declines below 6-1/2 percent, especially if projected inflation continues to run below the Committee’s longer-run objective. It was noted that this language might appear calendar-based rather than conditional on economic and financial developments, and one member objected to having forward guidance that might be seen as relatively inflexible in response to changes in members’ views about the appropriate path of the target federal funds rate. However, those concerns generally were seen as outweighed by the benefit of avoiding tying the Committee’s decision too closely to the unemployment rate alone, while still being clear about the Committee’s intention to provide the monetary accommodation needed to support a return to maximum employment and stable prices.

At the conclusion of the discussion, the Committee voted to authorize and direct the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, until it was instructed otherwise, to execute transactions in the System Account in accordance with the following domestic policy directive:

“Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Federal Open Market Committee seeks monetary and financial conditions that will foster maximum employment and price stability. In particular, the Committee seeks conditions in reserve markets consistent with federal funds trading in a range from 0 to 1/4 percent. The Committee directs the Desk to undertake open market operations as necessary to maintain such conditions. Beginning in January, the Desk is directed to purchase longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of about $40 billion per month and to purchase agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of about $35 billion per month. The Committee also directs the Desk to engage in dollar roll and coupon swap transactions as necessary to facilitate settlement of the Federal Reserve’s agency

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