FOMC sticking to its plan

Excerpt on policy from March 17-18 FOMC minutes

The following is an excerpt covering the Federal Open Market Committee's discussion of monetary policy taken from the minutes of the FOMC's March 17-18 meeting, which were released on Wednesday, April 8.

In its discussion of monetary policy for the period ahead, members judged that information received since the FOMC met in January indicated that economic growth had moderated somewhat. Labor market conditions had improved further, with strong job gains and a lower unemployment rate; a variety of labor market indicators suggested that the underutilization of labor resources continued to diminish. Household spending was rising moderately, with declines in energy prices boosting household purchasing power. Business fixed investment was advancing, although the recovery in the housing sector remained slow and export growth had weakened. Inflation had declined further below the Committee’s longer-run objective, largely reflecting the declines in energy prices. Market-based measures of inflation compensation remained low; survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations had been stable.

The Committee expected that, with appropriate monetary policy accommodation, economic activity would expand at a moderate pace and labor market indicators would continue to move toward levels the Committee judges consistent with its dual mandate. The Committee also expected that inflation would remain near its recent low level in the near term but rise gradually toward 2 percent over the medium term as the labor market improves further and the transitory effects of energy price declines and other factors dissipate. In light of the uncertainties attending the outlook for inflation, the Committee agreed that it should continue to monitor inflation developments closely.

In their discussion of language for the postmeeting statement, the Committee agreed that the data received over the intermeeting period suggested that economic growth had moderated somewhat. One factor behind that moderation was a slowdown in the growth of exports, and members decided that the statement should explicitly note that factor. In addition, data received over the intermeeting period indicated that inflation had declined, as the Committee had anticipated, and members agreed to update the statement to reflect their judgment that inflation was likely to remain near its recent low level in the near term. Members also judged that it was appropriate to note that market-based measures of inflation compensation remained near levels registered at the time of the January FOMC meeting.

The Committee agreed to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to a quarter percent and to reaffirm in the statement that the Committee’s decision about how long to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate would depend on its assessment of actual and expected progress toward its objectives of maximum employment and 2% inflation. Members continued to judge that this assessment of progress would take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and international developments.

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