Wednesday, August 21, 2019

FOMC Minutes: A Wide Range of Views

by Calculated Risk on 8/21/2019 02:07:00 PM

From the Fed: Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, July 30–31, 2019. A few excerpts:

In their discussion of monetary policy decisions at this meeting, those participants who favored a reduction in the target range for the federal funds rate pointed to three broad categories of reasons for supporting that action.
• First, while the overall outlook remained favorable, there had been signs of deceleration in economic activity in recent quarters, particularly in business fixed investment and manufacturing. A pronounced slowing in economic growth in overseas economies—perhaps related in part to developments in, and uncertainties surrounding, international trade—appeared to be an important factor in this deceleration. More generally, such developments were among those that had led most participants over recent quarters to revise down their estimates of the policy rate path that would be appropriate to promote maximum employment and stable prices.

• Second, a policy easing at this meeting would be a prudent step from a risk-management perspective. Despite some encouraging signs over the intermeeting period, many of the risks and uncertainties surrounding the economic outlook that had been a source of concern in June had remained elevated, particularly those associated with the global economic outlook and international trade. On this point, a number of participants observed that policy authorities in many foreign countries had only limited policy space to support aggregate demand should the downside risks to global economic growth be realized.

• Third, there were concerns about the outlook for inflation. A number of participants observed that overall inflation had continued to run below the Committee's 2 percent objective, as had inflation for items other than food and energy. Several of these participants commented that the fact that wage pressures had remained only moderate despite the low unemployment rate could be a sign that the longer-run normal level of the unemployment rate is appreciably lower than often assumed. Participants discussed indicators for longer-term inflation expectations and inflation compensation. A number of them concluded that the modest increase in market-based measures of inflation compensation over the intermeeting period likely reflected market participants' expectation of more accommodative monetary policy in the near future; others observed that, while survey measures of inflation expectations were little changed from June, the level of expectations by at least some measures was low. Most participants judged that long-term inflation expectations either were already below the Committee's 2 percent goal or could decline below the level consistent with that goal should there be a continuation of the pattern of inflation coming in persistently below 2 percent.
A couple of participants indicated that they would have preferred a 50 basis point cut in the federal funds rate at this meeting rather than a 25 basis point reduction. They favored a stronger action to better address the stubbornly low inflation rates of the past several years, recognizing that the apparent low sensitivity of inflation to levels of resource utilization meant that a notably stronger real economy might be required to speed the return of inflation to the Committee's inflation objective.

Several participants favored maintaining the same target range at this meeting, judging that the real economy continued to be in a good place, bolstered by confident consumers, a strong job market, and a low rate of unemployment. These participants acknowledged that there were lingering risks and uncertainties about the global economy in general, and about international trade in particular, but they viewed those risks as having diminished over the intermeeting period. In addition, they viewed the news on inflation over the intermeeting period as consistent with their forecasts that inflation would move up to the Committee's 2 percent objective at an acceptable pace without an adjustment in policy at this meeting. Finally, a few participants expressed concerns that further monetary accommodation presented a risk to financial stability in certain sectors of the economy or that a reduction in the target range for the federal funds rate at this meeting could be misinterpreted as a negative signal about the state of the economy.

In their discussion of the outlook for monetary policy beyond this meeting, participants generally favored an approach in which policy would be guided by incoming information and its implications for the economic outlook and that avoided any appearance of following a preset course. Most participants viewed a proposed quarter-point policy easing at this meeting as part of a recalibration of the stance of policy, or mid-cycle adjustment, in response to the evolution of the economic outlook over recent months. A number of participants suggested that the nature of many of the risks they judged to be weighing on the economy, and the absence of clarity regarding when those risks might be resolved, highlighted the need for policymakers to remain flexible and focused on the implications of incoming data for the outlook.
emphasis added