FOMC still ready to take appropriate action to revive economy
While all members of the Federal Open Market Committee agree the U.S. economy is continuing its recovery, albeit slowly, some officials still disagree with the policy actions the Fed has undertook to further spur growth. Earlier Tuesday, Thomas Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, reiterated his belief that the current Fed monetary policy isn't working. He also said any quantitative easing undertaken by the central bank won't provide benefits that outweigh costs. But according to the minutes of the FOMC meeting from the third week of September, "several members noted that unless the pace of economic recovery strengthened or underlying inflation moved back toward a level consistent with the committee’s mandate, they would consider it appropriate to take action soon." And it's still not exactly clear what that action will entail. In August, the FOMC announced plans to reinvest proceeds of maturing mortgage-backed securities into long-term Treasury securities to stave off contraction of the nation's balance sheet. And some members want to see that program expanded. Fed officials expect the housing sector will remain weak, as foreclosures continue to raise an already elevated supply of available homes, which hurts home prices and housing construction. "Although some further signs emerged that this sector might be stabilizing," the FOMC members noted. Members pointed to a few small commercial mortgage-backed securities deals that priced recently that may be renewing interest in CMBS, but volume is well below previous year. The Fed also established new criteria to allow a broader set of money market funds to become eligible counterparties. The Fed has been using 18 firms as primary dealers, but starting Wednesday the list expands by another 26 money funds, which will increase the capacity the central bank has to drain reserves, specifically through reverse repurchase transactions. The FOMC lowered its projection for expected growth in real economic activity over the second half of this year, as the "softer tone of incoming economic data suggested that the underlying level of demand was weaker than projected at the time of the August meeting." The committee also slightly reduced its growth forecast for 2011, anticipating moderate strengthening with additional growth in 2012. "The current and projected wide margins of economic slack were expected to contribute to a small slowing in core inflation in 2011, which was anticipated to be tempered by stable inflation expectations. Inflation was projected to change little in 2012, as considerable economic slack was expected to remain even as economic activity was anticipated to strengthen," according to the minutes of the most-recent meeting. The FOMC meets again Nov. 2 and 3. Write to Jason Philyaw.