FOMC Minutes Reveal Fed Policymakers U-Turn
Members of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee voted to hold the target range of the federal funds rate to its current range of 2.25 to 2.50 percent. The minutes of the most recent Committee meeting cited softening domestic and global economic conditions as reason for not raising the target federal funds range.
While labor markets remained strong, the minutes noted that household spending and business investment slowed in the first quarter of 2019. FOMC members expected Gross Domestic Product growth to slow as compared to its 2018 pace.
While current inflation and the national unemployment rate fell in line with the Fed’s dual mandate of seeking maximum employment and price stabilization, inflation fell due to falling fuel prices. The meeting minutes said that the Committee would be patient as it determined which, if any, action would be appropriate regarding the federal funds rate.
Strong Labor Sector Indicators Offset Lower GDP
Labor sector indicators remained strong with a national unemployment rate of 3.80 percent; labor force participation rose and the ratio of employment to population also rose. Strong employment and consumer sentiment readings suggested that more households may transition from renting to buying homes. Home sales recently fell due to affordability issues and rising mortgage rates.
Factors influencing FOMC monetary policy decisions include labor market conditions, inflation expectations and readings on domestic and international financial developments. The meeting minutes noted that near-term adjustments to monetary policy were dependent on changes to current economic outlook according to emerging data. The Committee consistently says that monetary policy positions can change according to developments in global and domestic economic data.
Fed Chair‘s Press Conference
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said during his post-FOMC meeting press conference that the Committee’s “wait and see” stance on raising the target range of the federal funds rate was based on information received since growth expectations based on 2018’s economic growth rate of 3.10 percent. As of September 2018, the Fed forecasted economic growth of 2.50 percent in 2019, but subsequent information caused the Fed to downwardly revise its growth estimate.
Mr. Powell said that global economic slowing was expected in Europe and China; unresolved issues including Brexit and ongoing trade negotiations were given as reasons for slower global economic growth. While domestic and international economic forecasts indicated a modest slowdown in economic growth, Chairman Powell said that overall economic conditions remained favorable.
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