Federal Reserve officials agreed at a meeting in September that they probably would keep raising their benchmark interest rate in coming quarters because of the likelihood of continued solid economic growth.
But some members of the Fed's top policymaking committee also expressed concerns about the strength of the expansion and suggested they might want to slow the pace of future increases if it appeared to be weakening, according to minutes released yesterday of their Sept. 21 meeting.
Instead, recent economic figures show the economy appears to have strengthened since then, dousing expectations that the Fed would let up.
In September, the group nudged up the federal funds rate, which is charged on overnight loans between banks, to 1.75 percent from 1.50 percent. They moved it up again at their following meeting Wednesday to 2 percent.
After four increases at four consecutive meetings, the rate is now a full percentage point higher than it was in June. But analysts and traders do not foresee the Fed maintaining such a steady pace of increases in the coming year and are keen for any signs of how it may be adjusted.
After the September meeting, and again on Wednesday, the committee indicated in public statements that it expected to continue raising the rate over time at a "measured" pace. The group has used the term after every meeting since May to describe the likely increase of interest rates, but has never defined it precisely. That has allowed analysts to interpret it to mean increases achieved in small steps, of a quarter of a percentage point or a half point at a time, spread over many months or even years.
The minutes of each policy meeting are released shortly after the subsequent meeting, providing a view of the committee's thinking roughly six weeks earlier.
During the September meeting, Fed policymakers agreed with the staff's upbeat economic forecast, but several also remarked "that their uncertainty about the likely pace of the expansion going forward had risen."
The policymakers cited risks that consumer spending might be restrained by weak job growth, households' need to rebuild depleted savings, or the fading effects of last year's tax cuts, the minutes show, summarizing the comments without identifying the individual speakers. They also noted businesses' continued caution about expanding their workforces and production capacity.
In this context, several policymakers suggested that they would not necessarily keep raising the rate at every meeting. Rather, they would base future interest rate decisions increasingly on the economic figures to be released between meetings.
"In the view of many members, policy actions would need to be increasingly keyed to incoming data," the minutes said.