Most Fed policymakers viewed their interest-rate cut as necessary but were increasingly divided on the next monetary policy steps, amid concerns about escalating trade wars, particularly with China, slowing global growth and other developments such as Brexit, minutes of the September meeting showed. Participants agreed that policy was not on a preset course and would depend on the economic outlook.
Excerpts from the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, September 17–18, 2019:
10/9/2019 6:19:06 PM
In their consideration of the monetary policy options at this meeting, most participants believed that a reduction of 25 basis points in the target range for the federal funds rate would be appropriate. In discussing the reasons for such a decision, these participants pointed to considerations related to the economic outlook, risk management, and the need to center inflation and inflation expectations on the Committee's longer-run objective of 2 percent.
Several participants favored maintaining the existing target range for the federal funds rate at this meeting. These participants suggested that the baseline projection for the economy had changed very little since the Committee's previous meeting and that the state of the economy and the economic outlook did not justify a shift away from the current policy stance, which they felt was already adequately accommodative. They acknowledged the uncertainties that currently figured importantly in evaluations of the economic outlook, but they contended that the key uncertainties were unlikely to be resolved soon. Furthermore, as they did not believe that these uncertainties would derail the expansion, they did not see further policy accommodation as needed at this time.
A couple of participants indicated their preference for a 50 basis point cut in the federal funds rate at this meeting. These participants suggested that a larger policy move would help reduce the risk of an economic downturn and would more appropriately recognize important recent developments, such as slowing job gains, weakening investment, and continued low values of market-based measures of inflation compensation. In addition, these participants stressed the need for a policy stance—possibly one using enhanced forward guidance—that was sufficiently accommodative to make it unlikely that the United States would experience a protracted period of the kind seen abroad in which the economy became mired in a combination of undesirably low inflation, weak economic activity, and near-zero policy rates.
With regard to monetary policy beyond this meeting, participants agreed that policy was not on a preset course and would depend on the implications of incoming information for the evolution of the economic outlook. A few participants judged that the expectations regarding the path of the federal funds rate implied by prices in financial markets were currently suggesting greater provision of accommodation at coming meetings than they saw as appropriate and that it might become necessary for the Committee to seek a better alignment of market expectations regarding the policy rate path with policymakers' own expectations for that path. Several participants suggested that the Committee's postmeeting statement should provide more clarity about when the recalibration of the level of the policy rate in response to trade uncertainty would likely come to an end.