A number of participants assessed that the standard of substantial further progress toward the goal of maximum employment had not yet been attained but that, if the economy proceeded roughly as they anticipated, it may soon be reached. On the basis of the cumulative performance of the labor market since December 2020, a number of other participants indicated that they believed that the test of “substantial further progress” toward maximum employment had been met. Some of these participants also suggested that labor supply constraints were the main impediments to further improvement in labor market conditions rather than lack of demand. They noted that adding monetary policy accommodation at this time would not address such constraints or that the costs of continuing asset purchases might be beginning to exceed their benefits. All participants agreed that it would be appropriate for the current meeting’s postmeeting statement to relay the Committee’s judgment that, if progress continued broadly as expected, a moderation in the pace of asset purchases may soon be warranted.
Participants also expressed their views on how slowing in the pace of purchases might proceed. In particular, participants commented on an illustrative path, developed by the staff and reflecting participants’ discussions at the Committee’s July meeting, that gave the speed and composition associated with a tapering of asset purchases. The illustrative tapering path was designed to be simple to communicate and entailed a gradual reduction in the pace of net asset purchases that, if begun later this year, would lead the Federal Reserve to end purchases around the middle of next year. The path featured monthly reductions in the pace of asset purchases, by $10 billion in the case of Treasury securities and $5 billion in the case of agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Participants generally commented that the illustrative path provided a straightforward and appropriate template that policymakers might follow, and a couple of participants observed that giving advance notice to the general public of a plan along these lines may reduce the risk of an adverse market reaction to a moderation in asset purchases. Participants noted that, in keeping with the outcome-based standard for initiating a tapering of asset purchases, the Committee could adjust the pace of the moderation of its purchases if economic developments were to differ substantially from what they expected. Several participants indicated that they preferred to proceed with a more rapid moderation of purchases than described in the illustrative examples.
No decision to proceed with a moderation of asset purchases was made at the meeting, but participants generally assessed that, provided that the economic recovery remained broadly on track, a gradual tapering process that concluded around the middle of next year would likely be appropriate. Participants noted that if a decision to begin tapering purchases occurred at the next meeting, the process of tapering could commence with the monthly purchase calendars beginning in either mid-November or mid-December.
From the Fed: FOMC Minutes, Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, September 21–22, 2021. Excerpt on asset purchases: