Wednesday, August 16, 2017

FOMC Minutes: Balance Sheet Normalization "Relatively soon"

by Bill McBride on 8/16/2017 02:10:00 PM

From the Fed: Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, July 25-26, 2017. Excerpts:

Participants also discussed the appropriate time to implement the plan for reducing the Federal Reserve's securities holdings that was announced in June in the Committee's postmeeting statement and its Addendum to the Policy Normalization Principles and Plans. Participants generally agreed that, in light of their current assessment of economic conditions and the outlook, it was appropriate to signal that implementation of the program likely would begin relatively soon, absent significant adverse developments in the economy or in financial markets. Many noted that the program was expected to contribute only modestly to the reduction in policy accommodation. Several reiterated that, once the program was under way, further adjustments to the stance of monetary policy in response to economic developments would be centered on changes in the target range for the federal funds rate. Al­though several participants were prepared to announce a starting date for the program at the current meeting, most preferred to defer that decision until an upcoming meeting while accumulating additional information on the economic outlook and developments potentially affecting financial markets.
Participants discussed the softness in inflation in recent months. Many participants noted that much of the recent decline in inflation had probably reflected idiosyncratic factors. Nonetheless, PCE price inflation on a 12‑month basis would likely continue to be held down over the second half of the year by the effects of those factors, and the monthly readings might be depressed by possible residual seasonality in measured PCE inflation. Still, most participants indicated that they expected inflation to pick up over the next couple of years from its current low level and to stabilize around the Committee's 2 percent objective over the medium term. Many participants, however, saw some likelihood that inflation might remain below 2 percent for longer than they currently expected, and several indicated that the risks to the inflation outlook could be tilted to the downside. Participants agreed that a fall in longer-term inflation expectations would be undesirable, but they differed in their assessments of whether inflation expectations were well anchored. One participant pointed to the stability of a number of measures of inflation expectations in recent months, but a few others suggested that continuing low inflation expectations may have been a factor putting downward pressure on inflation or that inflation expectations might need to be bolstered in order to ensure their consistency with the Committee's longer-term inflation objective.
emphasis added