Fed minutes may shape debate over what follows June, July rate hikes By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An eagle tops the U.S. Federal Reserve building’s facade in Washington, July 31, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve’s May 3-4 policy meeting ended with a half-percentage-point rate increase and what Chair Jerome Powell has termed a “broad sense” that similar increases would be approved when policymakers gathered in June and again in July to curb inflation that is far above the U.S. central bank’s 2% target.

Minutes of that May session, due to be released at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) on Wednesday, could start shaping the debate over what happens next.

Officials across the policy spectrum have backed the planned June and July rate hikes, aligning behind Powell’s push to make lowering inflation the Fed’s top priority.

But beyond that, officials have begun laying out a broad range of positions, from an outright pause in rate increases this fall to calls for an aggressive string of half-percentage-point increases at the September, November and December meetings.

The appetite, or lack of it, for larger incremental rate increases of three-quarters of a percentage point may also be mentioned in the minutes on Wednesday.

Analysts at Citibank said they would be looking “for any discussion of growth versus inflation concerns” as Fed officials try to navigate the economy out of its current inflation dilemma without causing a recession or pushing the unemployment rate substantially higher.

Inflation data has yet to show a convincing turn lower from the levels that have unnerved Fed officials and drawn comparisons with the inflation shocks of the 1970s and early 1980s. The Fed’s preferred measure of inflation is running at more than three times the central bank’s target.

Some analysts meanwhile have raised their risks of recession, and investors in contracts linked to the federal funds rate have of late pared back their estimates of how high interest rates will rise.

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