The members of the Federal Open Market Committee reaffirmed at their recent meeting that the central bank will continue to keep policy relaxed, according to the minutes of the meeting published on Wednesday.
As the economy continued to shake off the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the committee that sets monetary policy for the Federal Reserve kept policy unchanged.
This meant keeping short-term benchmark lending rates near zero and maintaining monthly asset purchases of at least $ 120 billion.
In a discussion of the Fed’s purchase program and interest rate policy, the minutes showed little chance of a change anytime soon.
“Participants noted that economic conditions are currently far removed from the longer-term goals of the committee and that policies must remain accommodative until those goals are achieved,” the summary of the meeting read. “As a result, all participants supported maintaining the current attitudes and results-oriented guidance of the Committee on Federal Funding Rates and the Pace of Asset Acquisitions.”
On the way to the January 26-27 meeting, investors had been looking for discussion about when the FOMC might begin slowing the pace of its bond buying or quantitative easing. The post-meeting statement made no mention of the talks, and Fed chairman Jerome Powell went on to say the central bank would likely keep the policy accommodative.
Members noted that the QE program, which increased the Fed’s balance sheet to nearly $ 7.5 trillion, “significantly eased financial conditions and supported the economy significantly”.
The deliberations take place amid central bank officials’ concerns about the pace of the recovery. A particular focus is on the goal of a “broad and integrative” recovery of the labor market across racial, gender and income lines.
The post-meeting statement noted that the pace of economic activity and improvements in the labor market have “weakened” in recent months. The protocol helped to bolster the Fed’s sentiment in this regard.
“With the economy still a long way from achieving these goals, participants felt that it will likely take some time to make significant further progress,” the executive summary reads.
Since the meeting, Fed officials have virtually agreed that they do not expect any major policy changes until further progress is made towards the central bank’s improved labor market goal. Powell and others have stressed that they will not start raising interest rates to stave off inflation but will wait for real price pressures to show before tightening policies.
“It’s just premature on rejuvenation. We just put the guidelines in place. We said we wanted to see significant further progress toward our goals before we change our asset buying guidelines,” Powell said at his news conference the meeting.
The minutes found that asset prices are “elevated” and that the vulnerabilities related to household and corporate borrowing are “noteworthy”. Officials also said some money market and mutual funds are facing “significant liquidity conversion-related vulnerabilities”.