Fed Meeting Minutes Show Hope In Economic Growth
The minutes of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting held October 29 and 30 were released Wednesday. The meeting began with a report from the Manager of the System Open Market Account and included updates on developments within domestic and foreign financial markets.
According to the report, no intervention by the Federal Reserve was required on foreign currencies during the period between the last and current FOMC meetings.
FOMC: Key Data Delayed by Shutdown
The FOMC noted moderate economic growth in the period since its last meeting, but also noted that several federal agencies delayed release of key statistics due to the government shutdown in early October. The FOMC minutes included updates on several economic sectors including:
Labor: Private non-farm payrolls for September increased at a slower rate than for August and the unemployment rate remains high at 7.20 percent. The FOMC has set a target unemployment rate of 6.50 percent as a benchmark for considering changes to the Fed’s quantitative easing program, which supports lower long-term interest rates and mortgage rates.
A high rate of part-time employment and a slight drop in full-time employment may indicate why would-be home buyers remain on the sidelines. FOMC members noted that while weekly unemployment claims rose during some weeks in October, this was likely fall-out related to the government shutdown.
Manufacturing: Production rose slightly, but was flat other than for motor vehicles. The committee expected to see gains in production in the near term.
Personal Consumption Expenditures: This sector rose in August and retail sales excluding autos were significantly higher in September. Factors impacting consumer spending were mixed. Homeowners enjoyed increasing home prices and home equity, but overall consumer sentiment declined even as disposable income increased in August.
Housing: The committee said that little current data was available for the housing sector due to the shutdown. Building permits and housing starts for single family homes rose in August. After a significant drop in July, sales of new homes rose in August while sales of existing homes fell. Pending home sales also fell during August and September.
Quantitative Easing: FOMC members decided not to alter its current QE program during its September meeting; this caused investors and analysts to revise their expectations for the Fed taking action to reduce its current pace of $85 billion in monthly bond purchases.
Expectations for the total amount of asset purchases under QE were revised upwardly, which suggested that no major changes in current Fed monetary policy is anticipated.
Overall, the minutes of October’s FOMC meeting echoed the committee’s recent perception of moderate economic growth as expressed during its 2013 meetings, and its intention to maintain asset purchases and the target federal funds rate at current levels in the coming months.