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FOMC Minutes January 3, 2001 Meeting
Telephone Conference Meeting

A telephone conference meeting was held on January 3, 2001, for the purpose of considering a policy easing action. In keeping with the Committee's Rules of Organization, the members at the start of the meeting unanimously re-elected Alan Greenspan as Chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee and William J. McDonough as Vice Chairman. Their terms of office were extended for one year until the first meeting of the Committee after December 31, 2001. By unanimous vote, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was selected to execute transactions for the System Open Market Account until the adjournment of the first meeting of the Committee after December 31, 2001.

At its meeting on December 19, 2000, the Committee had contemplated the possibility that ongoing economic and financial developments might warrant a reassessment of the stance of monetary policy prior to the next scheduled meeting in late January. Information that had become available since the December meeting tended to confirm that the economic expansion had continued to weaken. The manufacturing sector was especially soft, reflecting apparent efforts in a number of industries to readjust inventories that were now deemed to be too high, notably those related to motor vehicles. Retail sales were appreciably below business expectations for the holiday season despite some pickup in the latter half of December, apparently largely induced by price discounting, and sales of motor vehicles evidenced significant further weakness as the month progressed. Business confidence appeared to have deteriorated further since the December meeting amid widespread reports of reductions in planned production and capital spending. Elevated energy costs were continuing to drain consumer purchasing power and were adding to the costs of many business firms, with adverse effects on profits and stock market valuations. Interacting with these developments were forecasts of further declines in business profits over coming quarters. On the more positive side, housing activity appeared to be responding to lower mortgage interest rates, and on the whole nonresidential construction activity seemed to be reasonably well maintained. Moreover, while the expansion had weakened and economic activity might remain soft in the near term, the longer-term outlook for reasonably sustained economic expansion, supported by easier financial conditions and the response of investment and consumption to rising productivity and living standards, was still quite good. Inflation expectations appeared to be declining, with businesses continuing to encounter marked and even increased resistance to their efforts to raise prices. On balance, the information already in hand indicated that the expansion clearly was weakening and by more than had been anticipated. In the circumstances, prompt and forceful policy action sooner and larger than expected by financial markets seemed called for.

Against this background, all the members supported a proposal for an easing of reserve conditions consistent with a reduction of 50 basis points in the federal funds rate to a level of 6 percent. The Committee voted to authorize and direct the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, until it was instructed otherwise, to execute transactions in the System Account in accordance with the following domestic policy directive:

 

The Federal Open Market Committee seeks monetary and financial conditions that will foster price stability and promote sustainable growth in output. To further its long-run objectives, the Committee in the immediate future seeks conditions in reserve markets consistent with a reduction in the federal funds rate to an average of around 6 percent.

The vote encompassed approval of the sentence below for inclusion in the press statement to be released shortly after the meeting:

 

Against the background of its long-run goals of price stability and sustainable economic growth and of the information currently available, the Committee believes that the risks are weighted mainly toward conditions that may generate economic weakness in the foreseeable future.

Votes for this action: Messrs. Greenspan, McDonough, Ferguson, Gramlich, Hoenig, Kelley, Meyer, Minehan, Moskow, and Poole.

Votes against this action: None.

Chairman Greenspan indicated that shortly after this meeting the Board of Governors would consider pending requests by several Federal Reserve Banks to reduce the discount rate by 25 basis points. At the time of this conference call meeting, no pending requests for a 50 basis point reduction were outstanding, but the press release would indicate that the Board would be prepared to consider requests for further reductions of 25 basis points if they were received.

Donald L. Kohn
Secretary

 

 

 
 

 
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Last modified: March 11, 2001

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