Excerpts from the minutes of the FOMC's meeting held on March 20-21, 2018:
A number of participants reported concern among their business contacts about the possible ramifications of the recent imposition of tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Participants did not see the steel and aluminum tariffs, by themselves, as likely to have a significant effect on the national economic outlook, but a strong majority of participants viewed the prospect of retaliatory trade actions by other countries, as well as other issues and uncertainties associated with trade policies, as downside risks for the U.S. economy. Contacts in the agricultural sector reported feeling particularly vulnerable to retaliation.
All participants agreed that the outlook for the economy beyond the current quarter had strengthened in recent months. In addition, all participants expected inflation on a 12-month basis to move up in coming months.
Based on their current assessments, almost all participants expressed the view that it would be appropriate for the Committee to raise the target range for the federal funds rate 25 basis points at this meeting. These participants agreed that, even after such an increase in the target range, the stance of monetary policy would remain accommodative, supporting strong labor market conditions and a sustained return to 2 percent inflation. A couple of participants pointed to possible benefits of postponing an increase in the target range for the federal funds rate until a subsequent meeting; these participants suggested that waiting for additional data to provide more evidence of a sustained return of the 12-month inflation rate to 2 percent might more clearly demonstrate the data dependence of the Committee's decisions and its resolve to achieve the price-stability component of its dual mandate.
With regard to the medium-term outlook for monetary policy, all participants saw some further firming of the stance of monetary policy as likely to be warranted. Almost all participants agreed that it remained appropriate to follow a gradual approach to raising the target range for the federal funds rate.
A number of participants indicated that the stronger outlook for economic activity, along with their increased confidence that inflation would return to 2 percent over the medium term, implied that the appropriate path for the federal funds rate over the next few years would likely be slightly steeper than they had previously expected.
Some participants suggested that, at some point, it might become necessary to revise statement language to acknowledge that, in pursuit of the Committee's statutory mandate and consistent with the median of participants' policy rate projections in the SEP, monetary policy eventually would likely gradually move from an accommodative stance to being a neutral or restraining factor for economic activity.