The Fed and the Federal Open Market Committee [FOMC] on Wednesday released the “minutes” of the Committee meeting held on March 17-18, 2009 held on Feb 7. Here are a few excerpts:
In the forecast prepared for the meeting, the staff revised down its outlook for economic activity. The deterioration in labor market conditions was rapid in recent months, with steep job losses across nearly all sectors. Industrial production continued to contract rapidly as firms responded to the falloff in demand and the buildup of some inventory overhangs. The incoming data on business spending suggested that business investment in equipment and structures continued to decline. Single-family housing starts had fallen to a post-World War II low in January, and demand for new homes remained weak. Both exports and imports retreated significantly in the fourth quarter of last year and appeared headed for comparable declines this quarter.
Consumer outlays showed some signs of stabilizing at a low level, with real outlays for goods outside of motor vehicles recording gains in January and February. Financial conditions overall were even less supportive of economic activity, with broad equity in-dexes down significantly amid continued concerns about the health of the financial sector, the dollar stronger, and long-term interest rates higher. The staff’s projections for real GDP in the second half of 2009 and in 2010 were revised down, with real GDP expected to flatten out gradually over the second half of this year and then to expand slowly next year as the stresses in financial markets ease, the effects of fiscal stimulus take hold, inventory adjustments are worked through, and the correction in housing activity comes to an end.
The weaker trajectory of real output resulted in the projected path of the unemployment rate rising more steeply into early next year before flattening out at a high level over the rest of the year. The staff forecast for overall and core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) inflation over the next two years was revised down slightly. Both core and overall PCE price inflation were expected to be damped by low rates of resource utilization, falling import prices, and easing cost pressures as a result of the sharp net declines in oil and other raw materials prices since last summer.
Some indicators, including share prices and CDS spreads of financial institutions, suggested a worsening of financial market strains since January. However, for the most part, participants viewed conditions in financial markets as little changed but remaining extraordinarily stressed. The large volume of issuance of investment-grade corporate bonds in recent weeks was a notable bright spot.
In the discussion of monetary policy for the intermeeting period, Committee members agreed that substantial additional purchases of longer-term assets eligible for open market operations would be appropriate. Such purchases would provide further monetary stimulus to help address the very weak economic outlook and re-duce the risk that inflation could persist for a time be-low rates that best foster longer-term economic growth and price stability.
The staff’s projections for real GDP in the second half of 2009 and in 2010 were revised down, with real GDP expected to flatten out gradually over the second half of this year and then to expand slowly next year as the stresses in financial markets ease.
The minutes offered no specific numerical expectations for GDP. FOMC also downgraded its projections for the unemployment rate, projecting it between 8.5% and 8.8% in FY2009 and between 8.0% and 8.3% in FY2010.