Thursday, October 08, 2015

FOMC Minutes: Waiting on Inflation

by Bill McBride on 10/08/2015 02:05:00 PM

From the Fed: Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, September 16-17, 2015 . Excerpts:

In assessing whether economic conditions had improved sufficiently to initiate a firming in the stance of policy, many members said that the improvement in labor market conditions met or would soon meet one of the Committee's criteria for beginning policy normalization. But some indicated that their confidence that inflation would gradually return to the Committee's 2 percent objective over the medium term had not increased, in large part because recent global economic and financial developments had imparted some restraint to the economic outlook and placed further downward pressure on inflation in the near term. Most members agreed that their confidence that inflation would move to the Committee's inflation objective would increase if, as expected, economic activity continued to expand at a moderate rate and labor market conditions improved further. Many expected those conditions to be met later this year, although several members were concerned about downside risks to the outlook for real activity and inflation.

Other factors important to the Committee's assessment of the inflation outlook were the expectation that the influences of lower energy and commodity prices on headline inflation would abate, as had occurred in previous episodes, and that inflation expectations would remain stable. With energy and commodity prices expected to stabilize, members' projections of inflation incorporated a step-up in headline inflation next year. However, several members saw a risk that the additional downward pressure on inflation from lower oil prices and a higher foreign exchange value of the dollar could persist and, as a result, delay or diminish the expected upturn in inflation. And, while survey measures of longer-run inflation expectations remained stable, a couple of members expressed unease with the decline in market-based measures of inflation compensation over the intermeeting period.

After assessing the outlook for economic activity, the labor market, and inflation and weighing the uncertainties associated with the outlook, all but one member concluded that, although the U.S. economy had strengthened and labor underutilization had diminished, economic conditions did not warrant an increase in the target range for the federal funds rate at this meeting. They agreed that developments over the intermeeting period had not materially altered the Committee's economic outlook. Nevertheless, in part because of the risks to the outlook for economic activity and inflation, the Committee decided that it was prudent to wait for additional information confirming that the economic outlook had not deteriorated and bolstering members' confidence that inflation would gradually move up toward 2 percent over the medium term. One member, however, preferred to raise the target range for the federal funds rate at this meeting, indicating that the current low level of real interest rates was not appropriate in the context of current economic conditions.
emphasis added