Minutes of the Federal Reserve’s meeting in early February show that some officials were worried about recent easing in financial conditions.
Ahead of the Jan. 31- Feb.1 meeting, stocks had strengthened and bond yields had slipped after three months of good inflation news.
In their discussion, a “number” of Fed officials noted that financial conditions had eased, “which some noted could necessitate a tighter stance of monetary policy,” the minutes showed.
When asked about easier financial conditions at his press conference after the meeting, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell did not register alarm.
“Our focus is not on short-term moves but on sustained changes to broader financial conditions” which “have tightened very significantly over the past year,” he said.
At the meeting, the Fed hiked its benchmark rate by 25 basis points to a range of 4.5%-4.75%. Only a”few” Fed officials wanted a 50 basis point move. Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester and St. Louis Fed President James Bullard have already said they were in that small camp.
Overall, the minutes show that all Fed officials were supporting further increases in the interest rates.
There were signs of some divisions emerging.
“Several” Fed officials thought the risks to the economic outlook “were becoming more balanced,” suggesting high inflation was not the single focus.
On the other hand “a number” of Fed officials said that if the level of interest rates was not high enough to slow the economy, it could halt recent progress in moderating inflation and lead inflation to remain above the Fed’s target for a longer period. The public might start to expect higher inflation, these officials said.