From Wall Street to Pennsylvania Avenue, the "Fed-watchers" give their closest scrutiny to the weekly money supply figures. So when the Federal Reserve last Thursday announced a big rise both in M-1 (the basic money stock) and M-2 (a broader definition), the markets braced themselves for a standard response from the Fed - a tighter policy.
That could have been decided yesterday at the monthly meeting of the policy-making Federal Open Market Committee. But which way the FOMC moved, if it moved at all, won't be known until August 19, a delay designed to prevent market manipulation.#TWhat the FOMC had to do yesterday was to balance its proclaimed intention to keep money growth in line with a moderate pattern against a mixed batch of statistics officials testified yesterday, suggest a shift into lower economic gear for the second half of 1977.
What gives the current situation added interest is the prohability, cited by technicians, that the rise of $3.2 billion in M-1 and $5.6 billion in M-2 for the week ending July 6 was a seasonal aberration. Payment of Social Security checks also provided an upward bias.
Economists fear that if the Fed reacted to a technical, rather than real, growth in the money supply by tightening interest rates another notch, it could be slowing the pace of recovery. "There is no sign of a spending plunge that would justify a tighter fed policy now," says one prominent economist.
A Federal Reserve source said that the Board is "of course" aware of what he called "quasi-seasonal" factors. But it is known, nevertheless, that if the money aggregates move up for any reason above the Fed target, the open market manager in New York has instructions to compensate by adjusting the Federal Funds rate upward.