Steady stimulus taper 'likely': Fed minutes

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Federal Reserve policy makers expect to continue the steady cutback to its stimulus program, the minutes to their March 18-19 meeting showed Wednesday.

The members of the Federal Open Market Committee hedged their commitment on the performance of the economy, but the minutes show that, despite recent weakness, they remain on track to wind up the bond-buying program late this year.

Members of the FOMC agreed that "if the economy continued to develop as anticipated, the committee would likely reduce the pace of asset purchases in further measured steps at future meetings," the minutes said.

The group, led by new Fed Chair Janet Yellen, decided at the March gathering to make the third monthly US$10 billion (S$12.47 billion) cut in bond purchases since December, pulling the program down to US$55 billion.

The move put the central bank on track to end quantitative easing operations, in place at various amounts since 2008 to push down longer-term interest rates, by November.

The FOMC also discussed Russia's annexation of Ukraine at the meeting, and said that the spillover would not likely hurt the US economy, but could impact world growth.

Meeting on the same day as the annexation, the Fed officials said the events "might have negative implications for global growth if they escalated and led to a protracted period of geopolitical tensions in that region."