Federal Reserve minutes: Officials saw inflation slowing but will monitor data to ensure progress

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve officials concluded earlier this month that inflation was steadily falling and agreed to closely monitor incoming data to ensure that the pace of price increases would continue slowing toward their 2% target, according to the minutes of the meeting released Tuesday.

As a result, the policymakers decided to leave their key benchmark rate unchanged but to keep it elevated for an extended period.

The officials agreed that they would raise their key rate again if incoming economic data “indicated that progress” toward the 2% target “was insufficient.” That suggests that inflation would need to shift into a higher gear for the Fed to raise rates again.

At the Oct. 31-Nov. 1 meeting, the Fed kept its key short-term rate unchanged for the second straight time in a row at the meeting, the longest pause in its rate-hiking campaign since it began jacking up rates in March 2022. The Fed has lifted its benchmark rate 11 times since then from nearly zero to about 5.4%, the highest in 22 years.

In a statement after the meeting, the Fed kept the door open to another rate hike at future meetings, in case inflation showed signs of staying too far above its target.

Chair Jerome Powell expressed some optimism at a news conference after the Nov. 1 meeting. He said “we're making progress” in taming inflation, though he acknowledged that such progress would come “in lumps and be bumpy."

Inflation has tumbled since its peak of 9.1% in June 2022 to 3.2% last month. October's report also showed that core prices, which exclude the volatile food and energy categories, cooled from September to October and suggested that inflation is continuing to decline.