Debate was lively at the March FOMC meeting where hawks were pushing hard for an immediate rate hike while the majority, concerned over global risks, successfully pushed for no change.
Two of the 17 participants, including voting member Esther George of the Kansas City Fed, wanted a hike right away citing job strength and firming in inflation. But others said downside risks were "appreciable" including the risk that inflation expectations could slip lower. Members saw the economy continuing to expand, though at varying rates. All agreed that a gradual approach would be best. The policy outlook among members was mixed with some saying April would be a good time to lift rates again.
The liveliness of the debate, including the forcefulness of the hawks, does keep alive a possible hike for June. A hike at the April FOMC, however, is likely out after Yellen's dovish speech last month. Markets are showing little initial reaction to the minutes.
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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