“Participants generally assessed that, provided that the economic recovery remained broadly on track, a gradual tapering process that concluded around the middle of next year would likely be appropriate,” the minutes said.
Federal Reserve officials concurred at their last gathering that if the economy kept on improving, they could begin decreasing their monthly bond buys when one month from now and finish them by the center of 2022. The conversation was uncovered in the minutes of the Fed’s Sept. 21-22 gathering, delivered Wednesday. Fed officials additionally said that the decrease, or tightening, of bond buys could start in November or December. The 18 Fed policymakers meet eight times each year. The Fed is broadly expected to declare the tapering at its next gathering, to be held Nov. 2-3. The declaration is probably going to happen before the tapering really starts. Provided that this is true, such a move would check the Fed’s initial step back from the unprecedented endeavors it has made to animate the economy in the wake of the pandemic.
Last December, the Fed said that it would buy $120 billion a month in bonds until the economy had made “substantial progress” toward its goals of maximum employment and inflation that averages 2% over time. The bond purchases are intended to spur more borrowing and spending by keeping longer-term interest rates low. The Fed has also pegged its short-term benchmark rate at nearly zero.
At a news conference following the September meeting, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said that such progress had been made with inflation and the test was “all but met” when it came to employment.
“If the economy continues to progress broadly in line with expectations,” Powell said, “I think we can easily move ahead at the next meeting.”
Earlier Wednesday, the government said consumer prices rose 5.4% in September compared with a year ago, matching a 13-year high that was also reached in June and July. The ongoing price gains have raised pressure on the Fed to dial-back its low-interest rate policies.
According to the minutes, Fed policymakers said that the delta wave of COVID-19 cases around the world “were exacerbating or prolonging” the supply chain bottlenecks that have forced many auto plants to shut down and pushed up prices for furniture, televisions, shoes, and other imported goods.
Several policymakers, which include the presidents of the Fed’s 12 regional banks, said businesses in their districts “generally did not expect these bottlenecks to be fully resolved until sometime next year or even later.”
Powell has long described the jump in inflation this year as transitory, though some Fed officials are backing away from the term as price increases have persisted. Powell has said that by transitory, he means that price gains this year are mostly one-time responses to the disruptions of the pandemic, and don’t mark the start of an upward spiral in inflation. The minutes said that Fed policymakers “assessed that supply constraints in product and labor markets were larger and likely to be longer lasting than previously anticipated.”
Hiring has also slowed sharply in the past two months, with the government reporting Friday that just 194,000 jobs were added in September, far below the roughly 1 million gained in both June and July. Still, Powell said at the September news conference that he wouldn’t need to see a “super great” jobs report that month to support tapering at the November meeting. He said that the cumulative progress that has been made — with more than 17 million of the 22 million jobs lost to the pandemic having been recovered — would likely be enough.
Fed officials also emphasized that the beginning of the tapering of its bond purchases would be a separate decision from that of raising its short-term interest rate, which would require “a different, and more stringent, test.” Powell has said that the goals of maximum employment and inflation at 2% over time would actually have to be met before rate hikes would be warranted. At their last meeting, Fed officials signaled that they may first raise rates late next year.
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