Wednesday, August 21, 2013

FOMC Minutes: "Almost all Committee members agreed that a change in the purchase program was not yet appropriate"

by Calculated Risk on 8/21/2013 02:00:00 PM

The start of tapering is still contingent on incoming employment data.  The July employment report was released a few days after this FOMC meeting, and the report was disappointing (although the unemployment rate declined to 7.4%).  There is only one more employment report before the September FOMC meeting.   Clearly the Fed is getting ready to start reducing their asset purchases soon, but they are not ready yet.

From the Fed: Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, July 30-31, 2013 . A few excerpts on asset purchases:

In their discussion of monetary policy for the period ahead, members judged that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy was warranted in order to foster a stronger economic recovery and sustained improvement in labor market conditions in a context of price stability. In considering the likely path for the Committee's asset purchases, members discussed the degree of improvement in the labor market outlook since the purchase program began last fall. The unemployment rate had declined considerably since then, and recent gains in payroll employment had been solid. However, other measures of labor utilization--including the labor force participation rate and the numbers of discouraged workers and those working part time for economic reasons--suggested more modest improvement, and other indicators of labor demand, such as rates of hiring and quits, remained low. While a range of views were expressed regarding the cumulative improvement in the labor market since last fall,  almost all Committee members agreed that a change in the purchase program was not yet appropriate. However, in the view of the one member who dissented from the policy statement, the improvement in the labor market was an important reason for calling for a more explicit statement from the Committee that asset purchases would be reduced in the near future. A few members emphasized the importance of being patient and evaluating additional information on the economy before deciding on any changes to the pace of asset purchases. At the same time, a few others pointed to the contingent plan that had been articulated on behalf of the Committee the previous month, and suggested that it might soon be time to slow somewhat the pace of purchases as outlined in that plan. At the conclusion of its discussion, the Committee decided to continue adding policy accommodation by purchasing additional MBS at a pace of $40 billion per month and longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $45 billion per month and to maintain its existing reinvestment policies. In addition, the Committee reaffirmed its intention to keep the target federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and retained its forward guidance that it anticipates that this exceptionally low range for the federal funds rate will be appropriate at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the Committee's 2 percent longer-run goal, and longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored.

Members also discussed the wording of the policy statement to be issued following the meeting. In addition to updating its description of the state of the economy, the Committee decided to underline its concern about recent shortfalls of inflation from its longer-run goal by including in the statement an indication that it recognizes that inflation persistently below its 2 percent objective could pose risks to economic performance, while also noting that it continues to anticipate that inflation will move back toward its objective over the medium term. The Committee also considered whether to add more information concerning the contingent outlook for asset purchases to the policy statement, but judged that doing so might prompt an unwarranted shift in market expectations regarding asset purchases. The Committee decided to indicate in the statement that it "reaffirmed its view"--rather than simply "expects"--that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends and the economic recovery strengthens.
emphasis added