Fed interest rate hike 'unlikely' in June: Minutes

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Federal Reserve policy makers do not expect to increase its key interest rate in June, minutes from the April 28-29 policy meeting showed Wednesday.

"Many participants" at the meeting "thought it unlikely that the data available in June would provide sufficient confirmation that the conditions for raising the target range for the federal funds rate had been satisfied, although they generally did not rule out this possibility," the minutes of the meeting said.

A "few" officials thought that data collected by the June 16-17 meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee would likely show that the outlook had improved sufficiently to meet the central bank's thresholds for raising the near-zero federal funds rate .

But generally, the April minutes reflected a "wait-and-see" attitude after a stall in US economic growth in the first quarter.

The minutes showed policy makers viewed the slowdown as due in part to "transitory" factors, such as severe winter weather, the stronger dollar and the West Coast port strike that ended in late February.

"Most participants expected that, following the slowdown in the first quarter, real economic activity would resume expansion at a moderate pace, and that labour market conditions would improve further," the minutes said.

However, the officials discussed a number of reasons "for believing that some of the recent weakness in the pace of economic activity might persist."

The stronger dollar's curb on net exports and cutbacks in energy company investment spending because of lower oil prices could be larger and last longer than previously anticipated, a number of participants said.

Consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of US economic activity, and private investment spending was "unexpectedly weak," despite a fall in gasoline prices that left more cash in consumers' pockets.

"The expected boost to household spending from lower energy prices had apparently so far not materialised, highlighting the possibility of less underlying momentum in consumer expenditures than participants had previously judged," the minutes said.

Some participants expressed particular concern about that prospect because their forecasts for improving growth and job creation "rested largely on a scenario in which consumer spending grows robustly despite softness" in other areas of the economy.

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