(Bloomberg News) Federal Reserve policy makers disagreed on whether additional monetary stimulus will be needed even if the outlook for economic growth remains week, minutes of their meeting last month showed.
"A few members noted that, depending on how economic conditions evolve, the committee might have to consider providing additional monetary stimulus, especially if economic growth remained too slow to meaningfully reduce the unemployment rate in the medium run," the Federal Open Market committee said in the minutes of its June 21-22 meeting, released today in Washington.
"On the other hand, a few members viewed the increase in inflation risks as suggesting that economic conditions might well evolve in a way that would warrant" the FOMC "taking steps to begin removing policy accommodation sooner than currently anticipated."
Policy makers cut their forecasts for growth this year before a July 8 government report showed employers added jobs at the slowest pace in nine months in June. Chairman Ben S. Bernanke at a June 22 news conference said growth will pick up as energy prices subside and disruptions of parts from Japanese factories ease, while also leaving the door open to additional stimulus. In their meeting, policy makers also agreed on a strategy for withdrawing record monetary stimulus and adopted a new set of communications guidelines.
The minutes show officials divided on a course of action if the economy worsens amid doubts whether their policy toolkit has anything more to offer. "A few participants expressed uncertainty about the efficacy of monetary policy in current circumstances but disagreed on the implications for future policy," the minutes sad.
Some members of the FOMC "saw the recent configuration of slower growth and higher inflation as suggesting that there might be less slack in labor and product markets than had been thought," the minutes said. In that case, "the withdrawal of monetary accommodation may need to begin sooner than currently anticipated in financial markets."
The Fed's Washington-based governors and regional presidents agreed to complete the central bank's $600 billion bond buying program, known as QE2 for the second round of quantitative easing, as scheduled at the end of June.
Policy makers also renewed their pledge to hold interest rates "exceptionally low" for an "extended period." The Fed has kept its target rate in a range of zero to 0.25 percent since December 2008. Bernanke at the June press conference said the Fed would be "prepared to take additional action, obviously, if conditions warranted," including the purchase of more Treasury securities.