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US Fed divided on risk of cutting rates too soon: minutes

Fed officials were divided over the risks of cutting interest rates too soon or too late, according to minutes of the most recent meeting
Fed officials were divided over the risks of cutting interest rates too soon or too late, according to minutes of the most recent meeting - Copyright ANP/AFP -
Fed officials were divided over the risks of cutting interest rates too soon or too late, according to minutes of the most recent meeting - Copyright ANP/AFP -

The US Federal Reserve was divided in January over the risks of cutting interest rates too soon or too late, although most members voiced concern about moving early, according to minutes of the meeting published Wednesday.

At the January meeting, the Fed voted unanimously to hold interest rates at a 23-year high, keeping monetary policy tight in a bid to bring inflation down to its long-term target of two percent.

During the deliberations the Fed, which has penciled in three interest rate cuts this year, continued discussions about when might be the best time to start cutting rates, with members divided over the risks of moving too fast or too slow, minutes of that meeting showed. 

“Most participants noted the risks of moving too quickly to ease the stance of policy and emphasized the importance of carefully assessing incoming data,” the Fed said. 

“A couple of participants, however, pointed to downside risks to the economy associated with maintaining an overly restrictive stance for too long,” it added. 

The divisions suggest the Fed’s rate-setting committee is likely to be less united as it looks to unwind its tight monetary policy stance than it was when it moved to rapidly hike rates to tackle surging inflation in 2022.

However, most analysts do not expect any change to the Fed’s interest rate at its next interest rate decision in March, and many do not expect it to move following the meeting in May either. 

Futures traders now assign a probability of less than 35 percent that the Fed will cut rates by May 1, according to CME Group data, pushing back expectations of an interest rate cut until June. 

Speaking earlier Wednesday, Fed Governor Michelle Bowman said the US economy was not yet ready for interest rate cuts. 

“I think it will be time at some point to begin the process of lowering rates,” she told a meeting in Washington. 

“But given the uncertainty in the data, I’m just not confident that it’s — well, it’s certainly not now,” she said. 

AFP
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