The FOMC Minutes are out!
“The underlying pace of residential activity seemed to moderate in the first quarter. After unseasonably warm weather allowed a high level of single-family housing starts in January and February, starts fell in March to their lowest level in a year. New permit issuance for single-family homes also fell in March, continuing its downward trend. Multifamily starts recovered a bit in March from their low rate in February but remained well within their historical range. Home sales also declined, on net, in recent months. Although sales of existing single-family homes edged up in February and March, the level of sales for the first quarter as a whole was notably below the record high in the second quarter of last year. Sales of new homes also moved up in March, but their average in the first quarter was down substantially from the peak in the third quarter of last year. House price appreciation appeared to have slowed from the elevated rates seen over the past summer. Growth in the average sales price of existing homes in March, versus a year earlier, decelerated sharply, and the average price for new homes in March fell compared to a year earlier. In addition, other indicators, such as months’ supply of both new and existing homes for sale and the index of pending home sales, supported the view that housing markets had cooled in recent months.”
“Although the Committee discussed policy approaches ranging from leaving the stance of policy unchanged at this meeting to increasing the federal funds rate 50 basis points, all members believed that an additional 25 basis point firming of policy was appropriate today to keep inflation from rising and promote sustainable economic expansion. Recent price developments argued for another firming step at today’s meeting. Core inflation recently had been a bit higher than had been expected, and several members remarked that core inflation was now around the upper end of what they viewed as an acceptable range. Moreover, a number of factors were augmenting the upside risks to inflation: the surge in energy and commodity prices, some recent weakness in the foreign exchange value of the dollar, and the possibility that the apparent increase in inflation expectations could, if it persisted, impart momentum to inflation. In addition, the economy appeared to be operating at a relatively high level of resource utilization and had been growing quite strongly, and whether economic growth would moderate to a sustainable pace was not yet clear. At the same time, members also saw downside risks to economic activity. For example, the cumulative effect of past monetary policy actions and the recent rise in longer-term interest rates on housing activity and prices could turn out to be larger than expected. Still, it seemed most likely that, with modest further policy action, including a 25 basis point firming today, growth in activity would moderate gradually over coming quarters, pressures on resources would remain limited, and core inflation would stay close to levels experienced over the past year.”