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Fed Minutes Reinforce Expectations Of Interest Rates On Hold

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Minutes from the Federal Reserve's monetary policy meeting held in late October were released on Wednesday but did not provide much further insight into the outlook for interest rates.

Interest rates are already widely expected to remain unchanged in the near future after the Fed's statement and congressional testimony by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.

The minutes said the decision to remove the "act as appropriate" language from the statement was seen as consistent with the view that the current stance of monetary policy was likely to remain appropriate as long as the economy performed broadly in line with the Fed's expectations.

The Fed also reiterated that policy is not on a preset course and could change if developments emerged that led to a material reassessment of the economic outlook.

Reiterating the assessment in the Fed's statement, the minutes said members noted that information received since the September meeting indicated that the labor market remained strong and that economic activity had been rising at a moderate rate.

The minutes also acknowledged that business fixed investment and exports remained weak, as softness in global growth and international trade developments continued to weigh on those sectors.

During the meeting, the members of the Fed voted to lower the target range for the federal funds rate by 25 basis points to 1-1/2 to 1-3/4.

The minutes said the members who supported the rate cut viewed it as consistent with helping offset the effects on aggregate demand of weak global growth and trade developments, insuring against downside risks arising from those sources, and promoting a more rapid return to Fed's 2 percent inflation target.

Kansas City Fed President Esther George and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren preferred leaving rates unchanged, indicating the economic outlook remained positive and that they anticipated continued growth even if rates were maintained at 1-3/4 percent to 2 percent.

The minutes said members agreed the timing and size of future adjustments to rates would be based on assessments of realized and expected economic conditions.

Members also agreed that those assessments would take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and international developments.

In congressional testimony last week, Powell indicated the central bank would leave interest rates on hold for the foreseeable future unless there is a material change in the economic outlook.

The Fed is scheduled to hold its next monetary policy meeting December 10-11, with CME Group's FedWatch Tool currently indicating a 99.3 percent chance the central bank will leave interest rates unchanged after three straight rate cuts.

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