Federal Reserve officials could begin reducing the extraordinary help they’ve been providing to the economy by as soon as mid-November, according to minutes from the central bank’s September meeting released Wednesday.
The meeting summary indicated members feel the Fed has come close to reaching its economic goals and soon could begin normalizing policy by reducing the pace of its monthly asset purchases.
In a process known as tapering, the Fed would reduce the $120 billion a month in bond buys slowly. The minutes indicated the central bank probably would start by cutting $10 billion a month in Treasurys and $5 billion a month in mortgage-backed securities. The Fed is currently buying at least $80 billion in Treasurys and $40 billion in MBS.
The target date to end the purchases should there be no disruptions would be mid-2022.
The minutes noted “participants generally assessed that, provided that the economic recovery remained broadly on track, a gradual tapering process that concluded around the middle of next year would likely be appropriate.”
“Participants noted that if a decision to begin tapering purchases occurred at the next meeting, the process of tapering could commence with the monthly purchase calendars beginning in either mid-November or mid-December,” the summary said.
The Fed next meets Nov. 2-3. Starting the tapering process in November is on the aggressive side of market expectations.
The minutes said members’ estimates “were consistent with a gradual tapering of net purchases being completed in July of next year.”
“If they announce [tapering] in November, I don’t see why they would wait. Just go ahead and get going,” said Kathy Jones, chief fixed income strategist at Charles Schwab. Jones said she was a bit surprised by a notation in the minutes that “several” members “preferred to proceed with a more rapid” tapering pace.