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Fed July minutes: Economic growth 'modest, set to 'accelerate''

Aug. 21, 2013 at 3:53 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Economic growth is expected to "accelerate" after modest growth in the first half of 2013, U.S. central bank policy makers were advised at their July meeting.

"Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in June suggests that economic activity expanded at a modest pace during the first half of the year. Labor market conditions have shown further improvement in recent months, on balance, but the unemployment rate remains elevated," Federal Reserve Board meeting minutes released Wednesday indicated.

"The data received since the forecast was prepared for the previous Federal Open Market Committee meeting suggested that real GDP growth was weaker, on net, in the first half of the year than had been anticipated. Nevertheless, the staff still expected that real GDP would accelerate in the second half of the year," the minutes said.

As investors look for any hints the Federal Reserve could begin to unwind its $85 billion per month quantitative easing program or adjust the key federal fund rate soon, the Fed's meeting minutes show mixed signals.

"A few members emphasized the importance of being patient and evaluating additional information on the economy before deciding on any changes to the pace of asset purchases," the minutes said.

The Fed has indicated a policy change would be pegged to a lower unemployment rate. The zero to 0.25 percent federal fund rate is likely to remain in place until the unemployment rate, now at 7.4 percent, reaches 6.5 percent, the Fed has said.

In earlier discussions, the Fed said "household expectations for the labor market situation generally improved and firms' hiring plans moved up [since the previous meeting. However] initial claims for unemployment insurance were essentially flat over the inter-meeting period, and measures of job openings and the rate of gross private-sector hiring were little changed."

When the time came to vote on policy, Kansas City Federal Reserve President Esther George dissented. The minutes explain that George "favored including in the policy statement a more explicit signal that the pace of the Committee's asset purchases would be reduced in the near term."

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