Excerpts from the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, July 30-31, 2019:
In their discussion of monetary policy decisions at this meeting, those participants who favored a reduction in the target range for the federal funds rate pointed to three broad categories of reasons for supporting that action.
-First, while the overall outlook remained favorable, there had been signs of deceleration in economic activity in recent quarters, particularly in business fixed investment and manufacturing. A pronounced slowing in economic growth in overseas economies—perhaps related in part to developments in, and uncertainties surrounding, international trade—appeared to be an important factor in this deceleration.
-Second, a policy easing at this meeting would be a prudent step from a risk-management perspective. Despite some encouraging signs over the intermeeting period, many of the risks and uncertainties surrounding the economic outlook that had been a source of concern in June had remained elevated, particularly those associated with the global economic outlook and international trade.
-Third, there were concerns about the outlook for inflation. A number of participants observed that overall inflation had continued to run below the Committee's 2 percent objective, as had inflation for items other than food and energy. Several of these participants commented that the fact that wage pressures had remained only moderate despite the low unemployment rate could be a sign that the longer-run normal level of the unemployment rate is appreciably lower than often assumed.
A couple of participants indicated that they would have preferred a 50 basis point cut in the federal funds rate at this meeting rather than a 25 basis point reduction.
Several participants favored maintaining the same target range at this meeting, judging that the real economy continued to be in a good place, bolstered by confident consumers, a strong job market, and a low rate of unemployment. These participants acknowledged that there were lingering risks and uncertainties about the global economy in general, and about international trade in particular, but they viewed those risks as having diminished over the intermeeting period. In addition, they viewed the news on inflation over the intermeeting period as consistent with their forecasts that inflation would move up to the Committee's 2 percent objective at an acceptable pace without an adjustment in policy at this meeting. Finally, a few participants expressed concerns that further monetary accommodation presented a risk to financial stability in certain sectors of the economy or that a reduction in the target range for the federal funds rate at this meeting could be misinterpreted as a negative signal about the state of the economy.
In their discussion of the outlook for monetary policy beyond this meeting, participants generally favored an approach in which policy would be guided by incoming information and its implications for the economic outlook and that avoided any appearance of following a preset course. Most participants viewed a proposed quarter-point policy easing at this meeting as part of a recalibration of the stance of policy, or mid-cycle adjustment, in response to the evolution of the economic outlook over recent months. A number of participants suggested that the nature of many of the risks they judged to be weighing on the economy, and the absence of clarity regarding when those risks might be resolved, highlighted the need for policymakers to remain flexible and focused on the implications of incoming data for the outlook.