Wednesday, August 17, 2016

FOMC Minutes: "Near-term risks to the domestic outlook had diminished"

by Bill McBride on 8/17/2016 02:08:00 PM

From the Fed: Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee July 26-27, 2016. Excerpts:

With respect to the economic outlook and its implications for monetary policy, members continued to expect that, with gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity would expand at a moderate pace and labor market indicators would strengthen. Members saw developments during the intermeeting period as reducing near-term uncertainty along two dimensions discussed at the June meeting. The first was about the outlook for the labor market. They agreed that the strong rebound in job gains in June--together with a rise in the labor force participation rate and a decline in the number of individuals who were working part time for economic reasons--suggested that, despite the very soft employment report for May, labor market conditions remained solid and slack had continued to diminish. Many members commented on the somewhat slower average pace of improvement in labor market conditions in recent months. Several of these members observed that the recent pace of job gains remained well above that consistent with stable rates of labor utilization. A couple of members indicated that, in light of their judgment that labor market conditions were at or close to the Committee's objectives, some moderation in employment gains was to be expected. In contrast, several other members expressed concern about the likelihood of a further reduction in the pace of job gains, and it was noted that if that slowing turned out to be persistent, the case for increasing the target range for the federal funds rate in the near term would be less compelling.

A second source of near-term uncertainty that members had discussed at the June meeting pertained to the potential economic and financial market consequences of the U.K. referendum on membership in the EU. At the current meeting, most members pointed to the quick recovery of financial market conditions since the "leave" vote as an encouraging sign of resilience in global financial markets that helped reduce near-term uncertainty about the outlook for the U.S. economy.

While members judged that near-term risks to the domestic outlook had diminished, some noted that the U.K. vote, along with other developments abroad, still imparted significant uncertainty to the medium- to longer-term outlook for foreign economies, with possible consequences for the U.S. outlook. As a result, members agreed to indicate that they would continue to closely monitor global economic and financial developments.

Members continued to expect inflation to remain low in the near term, in part because of earlier declines in energy prices, but most anticipated that inflation would 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. Nonetheless, in light of the current shortfall of inflation from 2 percent, members agreed that they would continue to carefully monitor actual and expected progress toward the Committee's inflation goal.

After assessing the outlook for economic activity, the labor market, and inflation, as well as the risks around that outlook, members decided to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 1/4 to 1/2 percent at this meeting. Members generally agreed that, before taking another step in removing monetary accommodation, it was prudent to accumulate more data in order to gauge the underlying momentum in the labor market and economic activity. A couple of members preferred also to wait for more evidence that inflation would rise to 2 percent on a sustained basis. Some other members anticipated that economic conditions would soon warrant taking another step in removing policy accommodation. One member preferred to raise the target range for the federal funds rate at the current meeting, citing the easing of financial conditions since the U.K. referendum, the return to trend economic growth, solid job growth, and inflation moving toward 2 percent.

Members again agreed that, in determining the timing and size of future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee would assess realized and expected economic conditions relative to its objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation. They noted that this assessment would take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and international developments. The Committee expected that economic conditions would evolve in a manner that would warrant only gradual increases in the federal funds rate, and that the federal funds rate was likely to remain, for some time, below levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run. However, members emphasized that the actual path of the federal funds rate would depend on the economic outlook as informed by incoming data. In that regard, members judged it appropriate to continue to leave their policy options open and maintain the flexibility to adjust the stance of policy based on incoming information and its implications for the Committee's assessment of the outlook for economic activity, the labor market, and inflation, as well as the risks to the outlook. Most members noted that effective communications from the Committee would help the public understand how monetary policy might respond to incoming data and developments.
emphasis added