Extracts From the Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee:
In assessing whether economic conditions and the medium-term economic outlook warranted beginning the process of policy normalization at this meeting, members noted a variety of indicators, including some weaker-than-expected readings on measures of labor market conditions, and almost all members agreed it was appropriate to wait for additional information to clarify whether the recent deceleration in the pace of progress in the labor market was transitory or reflected more persistent factors that might jeopardize further progress. They indicated that they would be assessing a range of labor market indicators over the period ahead to confirm further improvement in the labor market. Members, however, expressed a range of views regarding the extent of further progress in labor market indicators they would need to see to judge it appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate in December.
Members continued to anticipate that inflation would gradually return to the Committee's 2 percent objective over the medium term, but most of them were not yet sufficiently confident of that outlook to begin the normalization process. They generally agreed that their confidence would increase if, as anticipated, economic activity continued to expand at a pace sufficient to increase resource utilization. Other factors important to the inflation outlook were the expectation that the influence of lower energy and commodities prices and the stronger dollar would subside, and that longer-term inflation expectations would remain stable. In this regard, a couple of members expressed concern about the continued decline in market-based measures of inflation compensation. Moreover, the risk was noted that downward pressures on inflation from the appreciation of the dollar could persist.
After assessing the outlook for economic activity, the labor market, and inflation and weighing the uncertainties associated with the outlook, all but one member agreed to leave the target range for the federal funds rate unchanged at this meeting. Members generally agreed that, in light of some weaker-than-expected readings on measures of labor market conditions and in the absence of greater confidence about the inflation outlook, it would be prudent to wait for additional information bearing on the medium-term outlook before initiating the process of policy normalization. One member, however, preferred to raise the target range for the federal funds rate by 25 basis points at this meeting.
In its postmeeting statement, rather than framing its near-term policy path in terms of how long to maintain the current target range, the Committee decided to indicate that, in determining whether it would be appropriate to raise the target range at its next meeting, it would assess both realized and expected progress toward its objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation. Members emphasized that this change was intended to convey the sense that, while no decision had been made, it may well become appropriate to initiate the normalization process at the next meeting, provided that unanticipated shocks do not adversely affect the economic outlook and that incoming data support the expectation that labor market conditions will continue to improve and that inflation will return to the Committee's 2 percent objective over the medium term. Members saw the updated language as leaving policy options open for the next meeting. However, a couple of members expressed concern that this wording change could be misinterpreted as signaling too strongly the expectation that the target range for the federal funds rate would be increased at the Committee's next meeting.