Fed won’t extend quantitative easing policy, minutes show

QE3 is not to be.

That’s the conclusion to be drawn from new minutes of the last Federal Reserve policy meeting released Wednesday afternoon. The central bank is on the verge of concluding its purchase of $600 billion in Treasury bonds. The program, known as QE2 because it is the Fed’s second round of “quantitative easing,” has been the Fed’s tool for keeping short-term interest rates near zero to boost the nations’ economy.

The minutes from the late April meeting show there is little appetite among Fed policymakers to launch a new round of bond purchases.

According to the minutes, some members of the Federal Open Market Committee said there “would need to be a significant change in the economic outlook, or the risks to that outlook, before another program of asset purchases would be warranted.”

Without such changes, “the benefits of additional purchases would be unlikely to outweigh the costs,” the minutes said.

The disinclination among Fed officials to continue the unconventional monetary policy, which is scheduled to end in June, reflects a sense that the economic expansion, though sluggish in recent months, is well entrenched and that further Fed intervention wouldn’t do much to improve conditions.

Some Fed officials “reported that more of their business contacts have plans to increase their payrolls later this year,” the minutes said, adding that a few said firms may be ready to ramp up hiring “because they have exhausted potential productivity gains.” Other members, however, indicated that some firms “may be putting hiring plans on hold until they are more certain of the future trend in materials and other input costs,” the minutes said.

Inflation has risen in recent months, making some Fed officials wary that consumers could face rapid price increases.

“Many participants reported that an increasing number of business contacts expressed concerns about rising cost pressures and were intending, or already attempting, to pass on at least a portion of these higher costs to their customers,” the minutes said, suggesting that board members are worried that rising prices for oil and other globally traded commodities could give way to broader cost increases.

The minutes contained fewer surprises than they have in the past: After the April 28 meeting ended, Chairman Ben S. Bernanke gave his first in what will be regular news conferences. His answers three weeks ago touched on many of the themes and ideas contained in the minutes released Wednesday.