Fed minutes, cont.

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Just in case you thought the FOMC understands monetary operations and reserve accounting.

(And I didn’t see any discussion on the swap lines to foreign CBs)

Participants discussed the potential advantages and disadvantages of setting quantitative targets for bank reserves or the monetary base. Some were of the view that quantitative targets for an increasing reserve base could be effective in preventing deflationary dynamics and useful in communicating to the public the Committee’s determination to take the steps needed to avoid such an outcome. Several other participants, however, noted that increases in excess reserves or the monetary base, by themselves, might not have a significant stimulative effect on the economy or prices because the normal bank intermediation mechanism appeared to be impaired, and banks may not be willing to lend their excess reserves. Conversely, a decline in excess reserves or the monetary base would not necessarily be contractionary if it occurred in the context of improving financial market conditions. A few of those who supported quantitative base or reserve targets did so because they saw them as helping to coordinate the actions of the Board of Governors, which is responsible for authorizing most special liquidity and lending facilities, and the Committee, which is responsible for open market operations. Most participants, however, were of the view that such coordination would best be achieved by continued close cooperation and consultation between the Committee and the Board. Going forward, consideration will be given to whether various quantitative measures would be useful in calibrating and communicating the stance of monetary policy.

Members debated how best to communicate their decisions regarding monetary policy actions. Since the large amount of excess reserves in the system would limit the Federal Reserve’s control over the federal funds rate, several members thought that it might be preferable not to set a specific target for the federal funds rate. Indeed, those members felt that lack of an explicit target could be helpful, in that it would focus attention on the shift in the policy framework from targeting the federal funds rate to the use of balance sheet policies and communications about monetary policy as a way of providing further monetary stimulus. A few members stressed that the absence of an explicit federal funds rate target would give banks added flexibility in pricing loans and deposits in the current environment of unusually low interest rates. However, other members noted that not announcing a target might confuse market participants and lead investors to believe that the Federal Reserve was unable to control the federal funds rate when it could, in fact, still influence the effective federal funds rate through adjustments of the interest rate on excess reserves and the primary credit rate. The members decided that it would be preferable for the Committee to communicate explicitly that it wanted federal funds to trade at very low rates; accordingly, the Committee decided to announce a target range for the federal funds rate of 0 to 1/4 percent. Members also agreed that the statement should indicate that weak economic conditions were likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for some time. The members emphasized that their expectation about the path of the federal funds rate was conditioned on their view of the likely path of economic activity.