Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting held October 28 and 29 were released Wednesday. The report suggests that the U.S. economy continues to improve, although the annual inflation rate remains near 1.50 percent and short of the committee's goal of 2.00 percent. Falling crude oil prices were cited as a cause of faltering inflation rates. The minutes indicated that FOMC members expect inflation to remain below the 2.00 percent benchmark for the next year or so.
The minutes did not reveal an exact date for raising the target federal funds rate, which is currently 0.00 to 0.250 percent, but analysts expect a rate change in mid-to-late 2015. One committee member said that the Fed should commit to keeping the target federal funds rate at its present level until inflation reaches the Fed's goal of 2.00 percent.
Job Markets Improve, Mortgage Rates Fall
FOMC members said that labor markets had improved "somewhat further." The minutes noted that the national unemployment rate had declined to 5.90 percent in September, which was lower than the FOMC goal of 6.50 percent for national unemployment. While this was good news, FOMC discussed the fact that a significant number of part-time workers suggested under-utilization of the labor force. A combination of stronger labor markets and a 0.25 percent reduction of mortgage rates during the intermeeting period between September 17 and October 28 were seen as positive for housing markets, but the committee noted that mortgage lending standards for single-family homes had not changed much. Lending requirements were more accommodative for commercial real estate.
QE Ends, FOMC Seeks to Maintain "Accommodative" Financial Conditions
FOMC members voted to end asset purchases made under the Fed's quantitative easing program, but said that ongoing reinvestment of principal payments on bonds and MBS with the goal of maintaining "sizeable" holdings of long-term securities. The minutes indicated that this would help maintain "accommodative" financial conditions.
The committee agreed to re-assert its position that although national unemployment and inflation may achieve or surpass FOMC goals, the committee could maintain the target federal funds rate at current levels for "some time" after the benchmarks are achieved. Ultimately, the FOMC's decision to change the target federal funds rate will include thorough and ongoing review of global and domestic economic developments.
Committee members concluded this meeting with a decision to set the next FOMC meeting for December 16 and 17.