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Minutes: Fed Divided Over When To End Stimulus

The minutes indicated that many of the Fed's members want to see sustained improvement in the job market â¿¿ from a wide range of economic indicators â¿¿ before making any decision to reduce the pace of purchases.

Stocks rose sharply after the minutes were released. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 16 points to 1,585 in midday trading â¿¿ above its all-time high of 1,576.09 set in October 2007. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 119 points to 14,792.

The early release of the minutes led the Fed to notify financial regulators. A Fed spokesman said that officials have contacted the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The Fed has also asked its inspector general to investigate its procedures for releasing the minutes.

"At this time we do not know if there was any trading related to the early distribution," the spokesman said. "Every indication at this time is that the early distribution of the minutes was entirely accidental."

John Nester, a spokesman for the SEC, declined to comment on the release of the minutes, beyond saying that the Fed contacted the SEC staff.

The minutes showed a wide array of opinions and criteria for when to end the bond purchases, which have boosted the Fed's balance sheet to $3.2 trillion.

A few members want to end "relatively soon" the bond-purchase program. Those members say the costs likely outweigh the benefits. A few others saw the risks as increasing quickly and said the purchases would likely need to be reduced "before long."

Many members said an improved job market could lead them to slow purchases within a few months, and a few said economic conditions would likely justify continuing the program until late this year.

___

AP Business Writer Marcy Gordon contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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