Excerpts from the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee July 31–August 1, 2018:
Participants generally noted that economic growth in the second quarter had been strong; incoming data indicated considerable momentum in spending by households and businesses. Several participants stressed the possibility that real GDP growth in the second quarter may have been boosted by transitory factors, including an outsized increase in U.S. exports. For the second half of the year, participants generally expected that GDP growth would likely slow from its second-quarter rate but would still exceed that of potential output.
Participants commented on a number of risks and uncertainties associated with their outlook for economic activity, the labor market, and inflation over the medium term. They generally continued to see fiscal policy and the strengthening of the labor market as supportive of economic growth in the near term. Some noted larger or more persistent positive effects of these factors as an upside risk to the outlook. A few participants indicated, however, that a faster-than-expected fading of the fiscal impetus or a greater-than-anticipated subsequent fiscal tightening constituted a downside risk. In addition, all participants pointed to ongoing trade disagreements and proposed trade measures as an important source of uncertainty and risks. Participants observed that if a largescale and prolonged dispute over trade policies developed, there would likely be adverse effects on business sentiment, investment spending, and employment. Moreover, wide-ranging tariff increases would also reduce the purchasing power of U.S. households. Further negative effects in such a scenario could include reductions in productivity and disruptions of supply chains. Other downside risks cited included the possibility of a significant weakening in the housing sector, a sharp increase in oil prices, or a severe slowdown in EMEs.
Many participants suggested that if incoming data continued to support their current economic outlook, it would likely soon be appropriate to take another step in removing policy accommodation. Participants generally expected that further gradual increases in the target range for the federal funds rate would be consistent with a sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective over the medium term. Many participants reiterated that the actual path for the federal funds rate would ultimately depend on the incoming data and on how those data affect the economic outlook.
Policymakers viewed the recent data as indicating that the outlook for the economy was evolving about as they had expected. Consequently, members expected that further gradual increases in the target range for the federal funds rate would be consistent with sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective over the medium term. Members continued to judge that the risks to the economic outlook appeared roughly balanced.