April's meeting of the Fed's Federal Open Market Committee was held along with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
Meeting minutes released Wednesday indicated the committee's interest in "normalizing" its monetary policy. This included the FOMC's ongoing commitment to tapering its asset purchases under its quantitative easing program.
The committee agreed to taper the Fed's monthly asset purchases by $10 billion to $45 billion per month. Committee members discussed raising the target federal funds rate, which now stands at 0.00 to 0.25 percent, but the minutes clearly stated that this topic was undertaken as part of "prudent planning, and did not indicate that normalization would necessarily begin sometime soon."
The FOMC minutes reflected the committee's concern with achieving a balance between normalizing the Fed's monetary policy and keeping short-term interest rates under control.
Meeting attendees considered methods for managing interest rates and considered potential impact of each method discussed on overall financial stability.
Importance Of Early Communication
Meeting participants discussed the importance of early communication of pending changes to the Fed's monetary policy, and agreed that advising the public "well before the first steps in normalizing policy become appropriate."
Early communication to the public of planned changes was viewed as a means of providing clarity and credibility to FOMC policy decisions and help FOMC achieve its statutory goals of maximum employment, stable pricing and moderate long term interest rates.
Potential Impact Of Achieving Normalcy
FOMC members discussed the possible impact of tools considered for use in normalizing the economy on the following:
- Fed control over short-term interest rates
- The Fed's balance sheet and Treasury remittances
- Functionality of Federal Funds Market
- Financial stability in normal times and times of stress
The minutes noted that the Fed has never used any of the methods discussed while the Fed held a large balance sheet, and recommended that flexibility in using tools for achieving normal fiscal policy.
No decision was made about normalizing current monetary policy; FOMC and Fed Board members agreed that further study and analysis were needed before any decisions would be made.
Fed: Mortgage And Refinance Applications "Tepid"
The FOMC minutes characterized the level of mortgage and refinance applications through March as tepid, due to increasing mortgage rates and home prices.
While a survey of senior loan officers revealed that mortgage credit had been loosened for applicants with prime credit, mortgage credit remained tight for those with less than excellent credit.
The unemployment rate held steady at 6.70 percent and remained above the FOMC's benchmark of 6.50 percent. There was some good news as the workforce expanded and the ranks of the long-term unemployed decreased.
Stable employment is important to potential home buyers; if unemployment levels continue to fall, numbers of home buyers are likely to increase.