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US Fed officials stressed 'patience' on rate cuts: minutes

Some members of the Federal Reserve's rate-setting committee urged 'patience' last month (ALEX WONG)
Some members of the Federal Reserve's rate-setting committee urged 'patience' last month (ALEX WONG)

Members of the US Federal Reserve's rate-setting committee said last month that the bank's employment and inflation goals were moving into "better balance," with some calling for "patience" on interest rate cuts, according to minutes of the meeting published Wednesday.

The US central bank has held interest rates at a two-decade high for almost a year as it looks to bring inflation down to its long-term two percent target without doing too much damage to either the labor market or the broader economy.

It has brought inflation back down to an annual rate of below three percent, while growth has remained positive and the unemployment rate has stayed at near-record lows.

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Now, after years of focusing primarily on inflation, Fed officials have turned their attention increasingly to the labor market, which has shown some signs of weakness in recent months despite remaining strong overall.

The bank has a dual mandate to tackle both inflation and unemployment. Fed officials said at the rate meeting June 11 and 12 that they were moving "toward better balance" between the two, according to the minutes of the meeting.

"Some participants emphasized the need for patience in allowing the Committee's restrictive policy stance to restrain aggregate demand and further moderate inflation pressures," the Fed's minutes show.

However, several participants also kept alive the prospect of rate hikes if inflation were to increase, suggesting the US central bank is in no hurry to start the process of cutting its key lending rate.

"We've made quite a bit of progress in bringing inflation back down to our target, while the labor market has remained strong and growth has continued," Fed Chair Jerome Powell said during an event in Portugal on Tuesday.

"We want that process to continue," he added.

At last month's interest rate decision, the Fed penciled in just one rate cut for this year, and said it does not expect inflation to reach two percent until 2026.

But futures traders currently believe there is a more-than 70 percent chance that the US central bank will start cutting interest rates by mid-September, and see it as much more likely than not that it will make a second cut by the end of the year, according to CME Group data.

da/st