Extracts from the minutes of Federal Open Market Committee meeting held in September:
During participants' discussion of prospects for economic activity abroad, they commented on a number of uncertainties and risks attending the outlook. Over the intermeeting period, the foreign exchange value of the dollar had appreciated, particularly against the euro, the yen, and the pound sterling. Some participants expressed concern that the persistent shortfall of economic growth and inflation in the euro area could lead to a further appreciation of the dollar and have adverse effects on the U.S. external sector. Several participants added that slower economic growth in China or Japan or unanticipated events in the Middle East or Ukraine might pose a similar risk. At the same time, a couple of participants pointed out that the appreciation of the dollar might also tend to slow the gradual increase in inflation toward the FOMC's 2 percent goal.
In their discussion of the appropriate path for monetary policy over the medium term, meeting participants agreed that the timing of the first increase in the federal funds rate and the appropriate path of the policy rate thereafter would depend on incoming economic data and their implications for the outlook. That said, several participants thought that the current forward guidance regarding the federal funds rate suggested a longer period before liftoff, and perhaps also a more gradual increase in the federal funds rate thereafter, than they believed was likely to be appropriate given economic and financial conditions. In addition, the concern was raised that the reference to "considerable time" in the current forward guidance could be misunderstood as a commitment rather than as data dependent. However, it was noted that the current formulation of the Committee's forward guidance clearly indicated that the Committee's policy decisions were conditional on its ongoing assessment of realized and expected progress toward its objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation, and that its assessment reflected its review of a broad array of economic indicators. It was emphasized that the current forward guidance for the federal funds rate was data dependent and did not indicate that the first increase in the target range for the federal funds rate would occur mechanically after some fixed calendar interval following the completion of the current asset purchase program. If employment and inflation converged more rapidly toward the Committee's goals than currently expected, the date of liftoff could be earlier, and subsequent increases in the federal funds rate target more rapid, than participants currently anticipated. Conversely, if employment and inflation returned toward the Committee's objectives more slowly than currently anticipated, the date of liftoff for the federal funds rate could be later, and future federal funds rate target increases could be more gradual. In addition, some participants saw the current forward guidance as appropriate in light of risk-management considerations, which suggested that it would be prudent to err on the side of patience while awaiting further evidence of sustained progress toward the Committee's goals. In their view, the costs of downside shocks to the economy would be larger than those of upside shocks because, in current circumstances, it would be less problematic to remove accommodation quickly, if doing so becomes necessary, than to add accommodation. A number of participants also noted that changes to the forward guidance might be misinterpreted as a signal of a fundamental shift in the stance of policy that could result in an unintended tightening of financial conditions.