WASHINGTON May 21 Federal Reserve policymakers last month began to lay groundwork for an eventual retreat from their extraordinarily easy monetary policy with a discussion of the tools they could employ to accomplish the task, with no final decisions taken.
Minutes of the session released on Wednesday said Fed staff presented several approaches to raising short-term interest rates, but said the discussion was simply "prudent planning" and not a sign rate hikes would come any time soon.
The debate over when to exit the Fed's highly accommodative policy and what tools will be most effective is the latest sign the U.S. central bank is preparing to eventually leave behind near-zero rates and trillions of dollars of bond purchases.
"Participants generally agreed that starting to consider the options for normalization at this meeting was prudent, as it would help the (policy-setting) committee to make decisions about approaches to policy normalization and to communicate its plans to the public well before the first steps in normalizing policy become appropriate," the minutes from the Fed's April 29-30 meeting said.
"The committee's discussion of this topic was undertaken as part of prudent planning and did not imply that normalization would necessarily begin sometime soon." (Reporting by Michael Flaherty and Howard Schneider; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Paul Simao)