Fed Continues to Leave 2016 Rate Hike Option Open

Fed's decision to leave the target for the federal funds rate on hold in September was a close call and policymakers generally agreed that the case for a rate hike had strengthened in recent months, minutes from FOMC meeting held on September 20-21st showed.

Extracts From the Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee:

Participants generally expected that, with gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity would expand at a moderate pace and labor market conditions would strengthen somewhat further. Inflation was expected 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 past declines in energy and import prices dissipated and the labor market strengthened further. A number of participants indicated that there had been little change in their economic outlooks over recent months. A substantial majority now viewed the near-term risks to the economic outlook as roughly balanced, with several of them indicating the risks from Brexit had receded. However, a few still judged that overall risks were weighted to the downside, citing various factors that included the possibility of weaker-than-expected growth in foreign economies, continued uncertainty associated with Brexit, the proximity of policy interest rates to the effective lower bound, or persistent headwinds to economic growth. Participants agreed that the Committee should continue to closely monitor inflation indicators and global economic and financial developments.

Against the backdrop of their economic projections, participants discussed whether available information warranted taking another step to reduce policy accommodation at this meeting. Participants generally agreed that the case for increasing the target range for the federal funds rate had strengthened in recent months. Many of them, however, expressed the view that recent evidence suggested that some slack remained in the labor market. With inflation continuing to run below the Committee's 2 percent objective and few signs of increased pressure on wages and prices, most of these participants thought it would be appropriate to await further evidence of continued progress toward the Committee's statutory objectives. In contrast, some other participants believed that the economy was at or near full employment and inflation was moving toward 2 percent. They maintained that a further delay in raising the target range would unduly increase the risk of the unemployment rate falling markedly below its longer-run normal level, necessitating a more rapid removal of monetary policy accommodation that could shorten the economic expansion. In addition, several participants expressed concern that continuing to delay an increase in the target range implied a further divergence from policy benchmarks based on the Committee's past behavior or risked eroding its credibility, especially given that recent economic data had largely corroborated the Committee's economic outlook.

Among the participants who supported awaiting further evidence of continued progress toward the Committee's objectives, several stated that the decision at this meeting was a close call. Some participants believed that it would be appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate relatively soon if the labor market continued to improve and economic activity strengthened, while some others preferred to wait for more convincing evidence that inflation was moving toward the Committee's 2 percent objective. Some participants noted the importance of clearly communicating to the public the conditions that would warrant an increase in the policy rate.

Fed Continues to Leave 2016 Rate Hike Option Open

Federal Reserve | Joana Taborda | joana.taborda@tradingeconomics.com
10/12/2016 6:26:54 PM