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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

FOMC Minutes: Most Participants will wait for more data

by Calculated Risk on 8/20/2014 02:11:00 PM

Note: Most participants want to see more data - and several are still concerned that inflation is too low.

From the Fed: Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, July 29-30, 2014. Excerpts:

With respect to monetary policy over the medium run, participants generally agreed that labor market conditions and inflation had moved closer to the Committee's longer-run objectives in recent months, and most anticipated that progress toward those goals would continue. Moreover, many participants noted that if convergence toward the Committee's objectives occurred more quickly than expected, it might become appropriate to begin removing monetary policy accommodation sooner than they currently anticipated. Indeed, some participants viewed the actual and expected progress toward the Committee's goals as sufficient to call for a relatively prompt move toward reducing policy accommodation to avoid overshooting the Committee's unemployment and inflation objectives over the medium term. These participants were increasingly uncomfortable with the Committee's forward guidance. In their view, the guidance suggested a later initial increase in the target federal funds rate as well as lower future levels of the funds rate than they judged likely to be appropriate. They suggested that the guidance should more clearly communicate how policy-setting would respond to the evolution of economic data. However, most participants indicated that any change in their expectations for the appropriate timing of the first increase in the federal funds rate would depend on further information on the trajectories of economic activity, the labor market, and inflation. In particular, although participants generally saw the drop in real GDP in the first quarter as transitory, some noted that it increased uncertainty about the outlook, and they were looking to additional data on production, spending, and labor market developments to shed light on the underlying pace of economic growth. Moreover, despite recent inflation developments, several participants continued to believe that inflation was likely to move back to the Committee's objective very slowly, thereby warranting a continuation of highly accommodative policy as long as projected inflation remained below 2 percent and longer-term inflation expectations were well anchored.
Members discussed their assessments of progress--both realized and expected--toward the Committee's objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation and considered enhancements to the statement language that would more clearly communicate the Committee's view on such progress. Regarding the labor market, many members concluded that a range of indicators of labor market conditions--including the unemployment rate as well as a number of other measures of labor utilization--had improved more in recent months than they anticipated earlier. They judged it appropriate to replace the description of recent labor market conditions that mentioned solely the unemployment rate with a description of their assessment of the remaining underutilization of labor resources based on their evaluation of a range of labor market indicators. In their discussion, some members expressed reservations about describing the extent of underutilization in labor resources more broadly. In particular, they worried that the degree of labor market slack was difficult to characterize succinctly and that the statement language might prove difficult to adjust as labor market conditions continued to improve. Moreover, they were concerned that, despite the improvement in labor market conditions, the new language might be misinterpreted as indicating increased concern about underutilization of labor resources. At the conclusion of the discussion, the Committee agreed to state that labor market conditions had improved, with the unemployment rate declining further, while also stating that a range of labor market indicators suggested that there remained significant underutilization of labor resources. Many members noted, however, that the characterization of labor market underutilization might have to change before long, particularly if progress in the labor market continued to be faster than anticipated. Regarding inflation, members agreed to update the language in the statement to acknowledge that inflation had recently moved somewhat closer to the Committee's longer-run objective and to convey their judgment that the likelihood of inflation running persistently below 2 percent had diminished somewhat.
emphasis added