Fed Presidents Warn of Vulnerable Economy

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's two-day meeting in late September showed that Committee members reviewed a range of monetary policy tools including another round of asset purchases before settling on its "Operation Twist" plan. The Fed presidents also acknowledged the tenuous nature of the current economic environment.

Committee members reviewed three accommodative policy options including another round of asset purchases, according to minutes from the FOMC's Sept. 20-21 meeting. Other options included a maturity extension for reinvestments or a maturity extension for the System Open Market Account. The staff also looked at options to detail their stance on monetary policy and clarify their long-term goals to the public. Additionally, the central bank considered looking at teh possible implications if the central bank lowered the interest rate that it pays on reserve balances held by banks at the Federal Reserve.

The minutes revealed that policymakers were split between policy tools. Some felt that options would only provide temporary relief, although most agreed that the options could provide additional support for the economy by lowering long-term interest rates and loosening tight financial conditions. The minutes also showed that some Committee members are still considering another asset purchase plan if economic conditions warrant stronger support for the recovery. Others, however, felt such a move would be more likely to raise inflation than spur economic activity.

Policymakers eventually settled on a shift of maturities in the System Open Market Account, otherwise known as Operation Twist. The central bank plans to purchase $400 billion of longer-term Treasury securities and sell an equal amount of securities with maturities of three years or less.

Committee members Richard Fisher, Narayana Kocherlakota and Charles Plosser voted against the action because they disagreed with providing additional monetary policy accommodation at the time.

As for the economic outlook, the minutes indicated that while meeting participants agreed that economic growth remained sluggish since their last meeting, information received during the period "did not suggest a contraction in activity."

Participants continue to expect a mild pickup in growth through the next few quarters but acknowledged that the uncertain global environment and weak employment environment have "left the recovery more vulnerable to negative shocks."

The next FOMC meeting is scheduled for Nov. 1-2.

-- Written by Melinda Peer in New York.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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