U.S. Fed minutes show officials divided over pace of rate hikes in 2018

Updated 2018-01-04 10:00:37 Xinhua
File photo: The U.S. Federal Reserve Building stands in Washington, D. C., capital of the United States, Dec 14, 2016.(Xinhua/Bao Dandan)

File photo: The U.S. Federal Reserve Building stands in Washington, D. C., capital of the United States, Dec 14, 2016.(Xinhua/Bao Dandan)

U.S. Federal Reserve officials were divided over the pace of rate hikes in 2018, according to the minutes of the Fed's latest monetary policy meeting.

"Most participants reiterated their support for continuing a gradual approach to raising the target range, noting that this approach helped to balance risks to the outlook for economic activity and inflation," said the minutes of the Fed's Dec. 12-13 meeting released on Wednesday.

At that meeting, the Fed raised its target range for the federal funds rate to 1.25-1.5 percent, the third rate hike of 2017. Fed officials' medium forecast for the benchmark interest rate also signaled that there were three more rate hikes in 2018.

But the minutes showed that two groups of Fed officials were not comfortable with this forecast. One group believed that three rate hikes this year might be too aggressive and could prevent a "sustained" return of inflation to the Fed's 2 percent target. The other group thought that the forecast of three rate hikes were too slow.

"They noted that financial conditions had not materially tightened since the removal of monetary policy accommodation began, that continued low interest rates risked financial instability in the future, or that the labor market was increasingly tight," the minutes said.

The minutes also showed that Fed officials were unsure of the economic impact of the 1.5-trillion-U.S. dollar tax cuts package approved by Congress last month.

"Many participants judged that the proposed changes in business taxes, if enacted, would likely provide a modest boost to capital spending, although the magnitude of the effects was uncertain," the minutes said.

The Fed will hold its next policy meeting on Jan. 30-31. About 66 percent of economists polled by the Wall Street Journal last month expected that the central bank would wait until March to increase interest rates.

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