Steady stimulus taper 'likely' - US Federal Reserve minutes

Thursday 10 April 2014 10.51
US Federal Reserve publish minutes from March meeting
US Federal Reserve publish minutes from March meeting

US Federal Reserve policy makers expect to continue the steady cutback to its stimulus programme, the minutes to their March 18-19 meeting showed last night. 

The members of the Federal Open Market Committee hedged their commitment on the performance of the economy.

But the minutes show that, despite recent economic weakness, they remain on track to wind up the bond-buying programme late this year.

Members of the FOMC agreed that "if the economy continued to develop as anticipated, the committee would likely reduce the pace of asset purchases in further measured steps at future meetings," the minutes said.

The group, led by new Fed Chair Janet Yellen, decided at the March gathering to make the third monthly $10 billion cut in bond purchases since December, pulling the programme down to $55 billion.

The move put the central bank on track to end quantitative easing operations, in place at various amounts since 2008 to push down longer-term interest rates, by November.

The FOMC also discussed Russia's annexation of Ukraine at the meeting, and said that the spillover would not likely hurt the US economy, but could impact world growth.

Meeting on the same day as the annexation, the Fed officials said the events "might have negative implications for global growth if they escalated and led to a protracted period of geopolitical tensions in that region."

The minutes confirmed that all or nearly all the FOMC members agreed on the Fed's monetary path, including dropping its indicative targets for unemployment and inflation for more qualitative guidance to markets on plans to eventually raise interest rates.

Most were confident in the economy resuming a moderate pace of growth after the December-February slowdown, though there was significant disagreement over the degree and cause of slack in the labour market.

One concern discussed in the meeting was that easy-money policies were fueling risky behavior in credit markets that could endanger financial stability.

Those worries included increased margin lending, a shift to commodity investing, higher equity prices, and greater lending to high-risk customers, both on the corporate and consumer level.