Treasuries rally, yield curve steepens on Fed balance sheet plan

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Most economists believe the US economy is strong enough to sustain gradual increases in the interest rate, and that the Fed should now shift its focus to restraining emerging inflation.

Overall, the minutes cast little light on the potential for a further rate hike at the June meeting which limited the overall impact.

Most Federal Reserve officials think the USA central bank should reduce its 4.5 trillion dollars of balance sheet later this year, if economy continues to perform as expected, minutes of the Fed's latest monetary policy meeting showed Wednesday.

The Fed has been keeping the level of its balance sheet steady at $4.5 trillion, compared with less than $1 trillion before the financial crisis. An approach that phased out reinvestments was seen as reducing the risks of triggering financial market volatility or of potentially sending misleading signals about the Committee's policy intentions while only modestly slowing reductions in the Committee's securities holdings. That would allow the Fed's balance sheet to gradually run down in a process that is likely to take years.

"Several participants now anticipated that meaningful fiscal stimulus would likely not begin until 2018", the minutes read. The minutes said that because of the "substantial uncertainties" about the outlines of the program that will eventually emerge from Congress, about half of the Fed officials had not included any assumptions about Trump's efforts in their economic forecasts. But some said there were also downside risks from a possible adverse economic reaction resulting from Trump's measures to limit immigration and increase trade barriers to protect American workers.

"Fed officials remain split on the question of how much inflation pressure is now in the system. but it has become hard for doves to argue that the economy is still some way from full employment", he wrote.

Several members also pushed for explicit recognition of a symmetric inflation target to help anchor inflation around 2% and this change was made in the statement.

"A few members expressed the view that the committee should avoid policy actions or communications that might be interpreted as suggesting the committee's 2 per cent inflation objective was actually a ceiling", the minutes said.

Not all Federal Reserve interest-rate moves are created equal: Some reverberate around the world, and others, like March's highly telegraphed increase, pass through markets with barely a whimper.

"While the implications of prospective Fed rate hikes are most likely benign, key features of the current tightening cycle stand in stark contrast to historical experience - and could conceivably lead to more serious market and economic disruption", Oxford Economics said. The next meeting is May 2-3.

The minutes were released with the customary three week time delay after the March meeting.

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