Wednesday, February 19, 2014

FOMC Minutes: "A clear presumption in favor" of Additional Tapering

by Calculated Risk on 2/19/2014 02:00:00 PM

From the Fed: Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, January 28-29, 2014 . Excerpt:

In their discussion of the path for monetary policy, most participants judged that the incoming information about the economy was broadly in line with their expectations and that a further modest step down in the pace of purchases was appropriate. A couple of participants observed that continued low readings on inflation and considerable slack in the labor market raised questions about the desirability of reducing the pace of purchases; these participants judged, however, that a pause in the reduction of purchases was not justified at this stage, especially in light of the strength of the economy in the second half of 2013. Several participants argued that, in the absence of an appreciable change in the economic outlook, there should be a clear presumption in favor of continuing to reduce the pace of purchases by a total of $10 billion at each FOMC meeting. That said, a number of participants noted that if the economy deviated substantially from its expected path, the Committee should be prepared to respond with an appropriate adjustment to the trajectory of its purchases.

Participants agreed that, with the unemployment rate approaching 6-1/2 percent, it would soon be appropriate for the Committee to change its forward guidance in order to provide information about its decisions regarding the federal funds rate after that threshold was crossed. A range of views was expressed about the form that such forward guidance might take. Some participants favored quantitative guidance along the lines of the existing thresholds, while others preferred a qualitative approach that would provide additional information regarding the factors that would guide the Committee's policy decisions. Several participants suggested that risks to financial stability should appear more explicitly in the list of factors that would guide decisions about the federal funds rate once the unemployment rate threshold is crossed, and several participants argued that the forward guidance should give greater emphasis to the Committee's willingness to keep rates low if inflation were to remain persistently below the Committee's 2 percent longer-run objective. Additional proposals included relying to a greater extent on the Summary of Economic Projections as a communications device and including in the guidance an indication of the Committee's willingness to adjust policy to lean against undesired changes in financial conditions.

A few participants raised the possibility that it might be appropriate to increase the federal funds rate relatively soon. One participant cited evidence that the equilibrium real interest rate had moved higher, and a couple of them noted that some standard policy rules tended to suggest that the federal funds rate should be raised above its effective lower bound before the middle of this year. Other participants, however, suggested that prescriptions from standard policy rules were not appropriate in current circumstances, either because the target federal funds rate had been constrained by the lower bound for some time or because the equilibrium real rate of interest was likely still being held down by various factors, including the lingering effects of the financial crisis, and was significantly below the value of the longer-run rate built into standard policy rules.
emphasis added
A few notes: 1) Tapering will continue unless the economy deviates "substantially from its expected path". 2) There is "a clear presumption in favor" of additional tapering. 3) the forward guidance will be changed soon, probably at the next meeting.