Economic growth slowed during the winter months as the pace of job gains moderated and the unemployment rate remained steady, according to the Federal Open Market Committee’s April meeting minutes.
“Although growth in output and employment slowed during the first quarter, the committee continues to expect that, with appropriate policy accommodation, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace, with labor market indicators continuing to move toward levels the committee judges consistent with its dual mandate,” the minutes said.
The committee once again reaffirmed its view that the current 0 to 1/4 percent target range for the federal funds rate remains appropriate.
However, as for the question the entire industry keeps asking, it’s still not set when the fed will raise the federal funds rate. There is some speculation that a June or September rates rise may be on the horizon; that's in doubt with the release of these meeting's minutes. One contributor to Forbes even floated the far-fetched idea that a negative funds rate may be in the not-to-distant future.
The committees said it will assess progress, both realized and expected, toward its objectives of maximum employment and 2% inflation.
“The committee anticipates that it will be appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate when it has seen further improvement in the labor market and is reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2% objective over the medium term,” the meeting minutes said.
“Given the recent volatility in the market with an unfounded backup in rates, analysts were looking to the minutes to provide some additional clarity regarding the eventual pathway for rates. We didn't get that - as we never do - but we were once again reminded of the Fed's more somber tone regarding economic activity,” Lindsey Piegza, chief economist with Sterne Agee CRT said.
Piegza noted that the one thing the minutes do suggest is that the market's focus should be shifted out of Europe and back to the disappointing fundamentals of the US economy that have been ignored as of late.
So what should the industry take away from the minutes?
“The FOMC minutes remind us even if the market is ignoring the data, the Fed cannot,” Piegza said. “The weakness of the data relative to the heightened expectations of committee members will continue to keep the Fed sidelined at least until the end of the year, and more likely, as we have long contended, into 2016.”