Thursday, November 29, 2018

FOMC Minutes: "Further gradual increases"

by Bill McBride on 11/29/2018 05:33:00 PM

Catching up … From the Fed: Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, November 7-8, 2018. A few excerpts:

In their discussion of monetary policy, participants agreed that it would be appropriate to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate at this meeting. Participants generally judged that the economy had been evolving about as they had anticipated, with economic activity rising at a strong rate, labor market conditions continuing to strengthen, and inflation running at or near the Committee's longer-run objective. Almost all participants reaffirmed the view that further gradual increases in the target range for the federal funds rate would likely be consistent with sustaining the Committee's objectives of maximum employment and price stability.

Consistent with their judgment that a gradual approach to policy normalization remained appropriate, almost all participants expressed the view that another increase in the target range for the federal funds rate was likely to be warranted fairly soon if incoming information on the labor market and inflation was in line with or stronger than their current expectations. However, a few participants, while viewing further gradual increases in the target range of the federal funds rate as likely to be appropriate, expressed uncertainty about the timing of such increases. A couple of participants noted that the federal funds rate might currently be near its neutral level and that further increases in the federal funds rate could unduly slow the expansion of economic activity and put downward pressure on inflation and inflation expectations.

Participants emphasized that the Committee's approach to setting the stance of policy should be importantly guided by incoming data and their implications for the economic outlook. They noted that their expectations for the path of the federal funds rate were based on their current assessment of the economic outlook. Monetary policy was not on a preset course; if incoming information prompted meaningful reassessments of the economic outlook and attendant risks, either to the upside or the downside, their policy outlook would change. Various factors such as the recent tightening in financial conditions, risks in the global outlook, and some signs of slowing in interest-sensitive sectors of the economy on the one hand, and further indicators of tightness in labor markets and possible inflationary pressures, on the other hand, were noted in this context. Participants also commented on how the Committee's communications in its postmeeting statement might need to be revised at coming meetings, particularly the language referring to the Committee's expectations for "further gradual increases" in the target range for the federal funds rate. Many participants indicated that it might be appropriate at some upcoming meetings to begin to transition to statement language that placed greater emphasis on the evaluation of incoming data in assessing the economic and policy outlook; such a change would help to convey the Committee's flexible approach in responding to changing economic circumstances.
emphasis added