FOMC September 2016 Meeting Minutes Notes

Substantial majority viewed the risks as roughly balanced

” A substantial majority now viewed the near-term risks to the economic outlook as roughly balanced, with several of them indicating the risks from Brexit had receded. However, a few still judged that overall risks were weighted to the downside, citing various factors that included the possibility of weaker-than-expected growth in foreign economies, continued uncertainty associated with Brexit, the proximity of policy interest rates to the effective lower bound, or persistent headwinds to economic growth.”

Tightening episodes had typically been followed by a recession

” A few participants referred to historical episodes when the unemployment rate appeared to have fallen well below its estimated longer-run normal level. They observed that monetary tightening in those episodes typically had been followed by recession and a large increase in the unemployment rate. Several participants viewed this historical experience as relevant for the Committee’s current decisionmaking and saw it as providing evidence that waiting too long to resume the process of policy firming could pose risks to the economic expansion, or noted that a significant increase in unemployment would have disproportionate effects on low-skilled workers and minority groups. ”

Money market fund reforms have led to an increase in some short term interest rates

“With regard to recent financial developments, it was noted that regulatory changes and impending MMF reforms likely had led to an increase in certain short-term interest rates, but these developments were expected to have only a small effect on the borrowing costs of nonfinancial corporations and little adverse influence on overall financial market conditions. A few participants expressed concern that the protracted period of very low interest rates might be encouraging excessive borrowing and increased leverage in the nonfinancial corporate sector. Finally, one participant expressed the view that prolonged periods of low interest rates could encourage pension funds, endowments, and investors with fixed future payout obligations to save more, depressing economic growth and adding to downward pressure on the neutral real interest rate.”

Participants discussed reasons for the apparent fall in the neutral rate of interest

“Participants discussed reasons for the apparent fall over recent years in the neutral real rate of interest–or r*–including lower productivity growth, demographic shifts, and an excess of saving around the world. Al­though several participants indicated that there was uncertainty as to how long the low level of r* would persist, one pointed to a growing consensus that the long period of slow productivity growth and recent evidence that the neutral rate had fallen across countries suggested that r* was likely to remain low for some time. A number of participants noted that they had revised down their estimates of longer-run r* in their contributions to the Summary of Economic Projections for this meeting. Participants discussed the implications of a fall in longer-run r* for monetary policy, including the possibility that policy interest rates might be closer to the effective lower bound more frequently and for a long period, or that monetary policy was ill equipped to address structural factors such as the decline in productivity growth.”

Many participants expressed the view that some slack remained in labor markets

” Participants generally agreed that the case for increasing the target range for the federal funds rate had strengthened in recent months. Many of them, however, expressed the view that recent evidence suggested that some slack remained in the labor market. With inflation continuing to run below the Committee’s 2 percent objective and few signs of increased pressure on wages and prices, most of these participants thought it would be appropriate to await further evidence of continued progress toward the Committee’s statutory objectives. In contrast, some other participants believed that the economy was at or near full employment and inflation was moving toward 2 percent. They maintained that a further delay in raising the target range would unduly increase the risk of the unemployment rate falling markedly below its longer-run normal level, necessitating a more rapid removal of monetary policy accommodation that could shorten the economic expansion. In addition, several participants expressed concern that continuing to delay an increase in the target range implied a further divergence from policy benchmarks based on the Committee’s past behavior or risked eroding its credibility,”