US Fed officials agreed to keep monetary policy tight
US Fed officials agreed to keep monetary policy tight 'for some time' AFP

US Federal Reserve officials agreed last month they should hold interest rates high "for some time" in their ongoing fight against inflation, according to minutes of the meeting published Wednesday.

Officials also discussed if it was time to signal to financial markets that policymakers were shifting from contemplating future hikes to considering how long to keep monetary policy tight, minutes of the meeting on September 19-20 show.

Fed policymakers chose to hold rates steady in that meeting after raising them to a 22-year high to tackle runaway inflation by raising the cost of borrowing.

But while the rate of price increases has slowed markedly since last summer, it remains stuck above the Fed's long-term target of two percent.

"All participants agreed that policy should remain restrictive for some time until the Committee is confident that inflation is moving down sustainably toward its objective," the minutes showed.

They added that several participants felt the Fed should pivot policy decisions and communications "from how high to raise the policy rate to how long to hold the policy rate at restrictive levels."

"The minutes are consistent with the hawkish immediate post-meeting communications from Chair Powell and others, Pantheon Macroeconomics Chief Economist Ian Shepherdson wrote in a note to clients.

But he noted that "the world now looks rather different than on September 20," given a recent surge in yields on long-dated government bonds and the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Members of the Fed's rate-setting committee have remained united on interest rate decisions since the start of an aggressive campaign of monetary tightening back in March 2022.

With the bulk of the interest rate hikes now done, policymakers have been arguing for different approaches in between meetings, with some still pushing for more rate hikes, and others calling for a prolonged pause.

Some, like the Chicago Fed President Austan Goolsbee, argue the Fed is on a "golden path" to successfully reducing inflation without plunging the US into recession.

But others, like Fed Governor Michelle Bowman, continue to insist that the policy rate "may need to rise further and stay restrictive for some time," to bring inflation firmly back down to two percent.

At last month's meeting, "Participants judged that the current stance of monetary policy was restrictive and that it broadly appeared to be restraining the economy as intended."

However, "A majority of participants judged that one more increase in the target federal funds rate at a future meeting would likely be appropriate," the minutes show.