Participants generally saw the distribution of risks to the outlook for economic activity as somewhat more favorable than at the previous meeting, although a number of downside risks remained prominent. The easing of trade tensions resulting from the recent agreement with China and the passage of the USMCA as well as tentative signs of stabilization in global economic growth helped reduce downside risks and appeared to buoy business sentiment. The risk of a “hard” Brexit had appeared to recede further. In addition, statistical models designed to estimate the probability of recession using financial market data suggested that the likelihood of a recession occurring over the next year had fallen notably in recent months. Still, participants generally expected trade-related uncertainty to remain somewhat elevated, and they were mindful of the possibility that the tentative signs of stabilization in global growth could fade. Geopolitical risks, especially in connection with the Middle East, remained. The threat of the coronavirus, in addition to its human toll, had emerged as a new risk to the global growth outlook, which participants agreed warranted close watching.
In their consideration of monetary policy at this meeting, participants judged that it would be appropriate to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 percent to support sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation returning to the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective. With regard to monetary policy beyond this meeting, participants viewed the current stance of policy as likely to remain appropriate for a time, provided that incoming information about the economy remained broadly consistent with this economic outlook. Of course, if developments emerged that led to a material reassessment of the outlook, an adjustment to the stance of monetary policy would be appropriate, in order to foster achievement of the Committee’s dual-mandate objectives.
In commenting on the monetary policy outlook, participants concurred that maintaining the current stance of policy would give the Committee time for a fuller assessment of the ongoing effects on economic activity of last year’s shift to a more accommodative policy stance and would also allow policymakers to accumulate further information bearing on the economic outlook. Participants discussed how maintaining the current policy stance for a time could be helpful in supporting U.S. economic activity and employment in the face of global developments that have been weighing on spending decisions.
From the Fed: Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, January 28-29, 2020. A few excerpts: