Extracts From the Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee:
In their discussion of monetary policy for the period ahead, members judged that information received since the Committee met in January suggested that economic activity had been expanding at a moderate pace despite the global economic and financial developments of recent months. They also agreed that household spending had been increasing at a moderate rate, and that the housing sector had improved further; however, business fixed investment and net exports had been soft. Members saw a range of recent indicators, including strong job gains, as pointing to additional strengthening of the labor market. Members noted that inflation had picked up in recent months; however, they also noted that inflation had continued to run below the Committee's 2 percent longer-run objective, partly reflecting declines in energy prices and in prices of non-energy imports. Market-based measures of inflation compensation remained low. Survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations were little changed, on balance, in recent months.
With respect to the economic outlook and its implications for monetary policy, members continued to expect that, with gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity would expand at a moderate pace and labor market indicators would continue to strengthen. However, they saw global economic and financial developments as continuing to pose risks. Members also continued to expect inflation to remain low in the near term, in part because of earlier declines in energy prices, but to rise to 2 percent over the medium term as the transitory effects of declines in energy and import prices dissipated and the labor market strengthened further. Members noted the increase in inflation reported in recent months but expressed a range of views about the extent to which the increase would prove persistent. Several members expressed concern that longer-run inflation expectations may have declined. Members agreed they would continue to monitor inflation developments closely.
Against the backdrop of its discussion of current conditions, the economic outlook, and the risks and uncertainties surrounding the outlook, the Committee decided to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 1/4 to 1/2 percent at this meeting. This accommodative stance of monetary policy was expected to support further improvement in labor market conditions and a return to 2 percent inflation. One member, however, preferred to raise the target range for the federal funds rate, indicating that the current low level of real interest rates was not appropriate in the context of current economic conditions and the progress that had been achieved toward the Committee's objectives.