US policymakers warn of risks to economy

Divided body of Fed officials debated how soon to further increase short-term interest rates

The US Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen. She has stressed that the central bank should proceed cautiously as it considers when to next lift rates

The US Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen. She has stressed that the central bank should proceed cautiously as it considers when to next lift rates

 

Many Federal Reserve policymakers were warning of “appreciable” risks to the US economy from global developments as a deeply divided body of officials debated how soon to further increase short-term interest rates.

Worries about the central bank’s ability to ease policy if the US unexpectedly hit the buffers hung heavily over the March 15th-16th meeting, at which all but one member of the Federal Open Market Committee voted to keep rates on hold.

The minutes of the meeting reveal a group of officials at loggerheads over when to tighten policy following the Fed’s December increase. Some advocated a move as soon as April; others warned this would show undue urgency.

In the meeting, the Fed scaled back its 2016 interest rate forecast to two quarter-point rises, falling closer into line with subdued market expectations as it flagged up risks to the US outlook from financial markets and weaker growth abroad.

Since then, Fed chair Janet Yellen has stressed that the central bank should proceed cautiously as it considers when to next lift rates, which suggests she does not want to rush ahead with a second increase.

– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016