US: FOMC Minutes

Wed Jul 08 13:00:00 CDT 2015

Some FOMC members, warning of inflation risks and financial instability, were ready to vote for a rate hike at last month's policy meeting while others, who were not quite ready, saw conditions falling in line with a rate hike. But in the end, according to the minutes of the meeting, most members wanted to see greater employment growth and upward pressure on inflation. Members cited uncertain risks tied to Greece and China, risks that have since grown.

Wages were described as subdued. Some cited weakness in exports and the related impact from strength in the dollar. Stabilization in the dollar, along with stabilization in energy prices, were seen adding to inflation which policy makers saw rising to their 2 percent goal. Some were upbeat on consumer spending but others not. The first-quarter, hit by special factors, was described as stronger than it appeared. And the Fed repeated its April guidance, that liftoff is data dependent on a meeting-to-meeting basis.

News since the June meeting is not cementing expectations for a September rate hike. The employment report for June was soft as were June vehicle sales. And, of course, the Greece and China wildcards are in play. June's meeting had a dovish feel and though some hawks spoke up, the outlook for the rate hike appears to be shifting more toward December than September.

The Federal Open Market Committee issues minutes of its meetings with a lag. The minutes of the previous meeting are reported three weeks after the meeting.

The FOMC has changed dramatically in the transparency of its operations. It now discloses policy changes at the end of each meeting. Historically, the Fed used to keep investors guessing about policy changes and Fed officials did not appear on the speaking circuit as frequently as they do now.

Since the Fed moved up the release of the minutes to three weeks after a meeting from six in January 2005, the minutes have become a market mover as analysts parse each word looking for clues to policy. However, the minutes do include the complete economic analysis compiled by Fed officials and whether or not any FOMC members have voiced opinions at odds with the rest of the group.

Investors who want a more detailed description of Fed opinions will generally read the minutes closely. However, the Fed discloses its official view at the end of each FOMC meeting with a public statement. Fed officials make numerous speeches, which freely give their views to the public at large.

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