The U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) appears to be on track to slow its bond purchases by the end of the year if the economy continues to improve, while it remains divided over the exact timing of the move, according to minutes from the Fed‚Äôs July 30 to July 31 meeting released Wednesday.
The minutes showed that a few Fed policymakers want to assess more economic data before deciding when to scale back the central bank‚Äôs $85 billion a month in Treasury and mortgage bond purchases. Others said it ‚Äúmight soon be time‚Äù to slow the purchases, which have helped keep long-term rates near record lows.
Since the July meeting, a few Fed officials have suggested that the central bank could slow the bond buying in September because by then updated reports on employment and economic growth would be issued.
Most economists say that a decision in September or December is the most likely scenario.
Fed policymakers did agree that they would not raise the short-term interest rate from nearly zero at least until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5 percent. Several members even said that they were willing to lower that threshold.
Employers added 162,000 jobs in July, the fewest in four months. Still, the economy has created an average of 192,000 jobs a month this year, slightly ahead of last year‚Äôs pace.
The unemployment rate has fallen to a four-and-a-half-year low of 7.4 percent, down from 7.8 percent in September.
Much of the job growth has been because the number of people seeking unemployment benefits has fallen to its lowest level in five years, suggesting that companies are laying off few workers and may hire more.