Fed Raises Concerns Over Low Inflation

Minutes from Fed’s last meeting showed policymakers were concerned about a possible downward shift in longer-term inflation expectations in the wake of lower growth. Also, it was an easy decision for the committee to end quantitative easing, although one member did not support it.

Extracts from the minutes of Federal Open Market Committee meeting held in October:

In their discussion of the economic situation and the outlook, most meeting participants viewed the information received over the intermeeting period as suggesting that economic activity continued to expand at a moderate pace. Labor market conditions improved somewhat further, with solid job gains and a lower unemployment rate; on balance, participants judged that the underutilization of labor resources was gradually diminishing. Participants generally expected that, over the medium term, real economic activity would increase at a pace sufficient to lead to a further gradual decline in the unemployment rate toward levels consistent with the Committee's objective of maximum employment. Inflation was continuing to run below the Committee's longer-run objective. Market-based measures of inflation compensation declined somewhat, while survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations remained stable. Participants anticipated that inflation would be held down over the near term by the decline in energy prices and other factors, but would move toward the Committee's 2 percent goal in coming years, although a few expressed concern that inflation might persist below the Committee's objective for quite some time. Most viewed the risks to the outlook for economic activity and the labor market as nearly balanced. However, a number of participants noted that economic growth over the medium term might be slower than they currently expected if the foreign economic or financial situation deteriorated significantly.

Most participants anticipated that inflation was likely to edge lower in the near term, reflecting the decline in oil and other commodity prices and lower import prices. These participants continued to expect inflation to move back to the Committee's 2 percent target over the medium term as resource slack diminished in an environment of well-anchored inflation expectations, although a few of them thought the return to 2 percent might be quite gradual. 

In their discussion of the asset purchase program, members generally agreed that the condition articulated by the Committee when it began the program in September 2012 had been achieved--that is, there had been a substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market--and that there was sufficient underlying strength in the broader economy to support ongoing progress toward maximum employment in a context of price stability. Accordingly, all members but one supported concluding the Committee's asset purchase program at the end of October and maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency MBS in agency MBS and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. 

In addition, the Committee agreed to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and to reaffirm the indication in the statement that the Committee's decision about how long to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate would depend on its assessment of actual and expected progress toward its objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation. All but one member agreed that the Committee should reiterate the expectation that it likely would be appropriate to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate for a considerable time following the end of the asset purchase program in October, especially if projected inflation continued to run below the Committee's 2 percent longer-run goal, and provided that longer-term inflation expectations remained well anchored. 

Fed Raises Concerns Over Low Inflation

Federal Reserve | Joana Taborda | joana.taborda@tradingeconomics.com
11/19/2014 9:55:29 PM