Fed’s Williams: Fed Minutes can Hinder Policy Debate

Minutes of the Federal Reserve’s regular meetings have become so detailed and such a central focus for investors and the news media that the quality of policy debates may be suffering as a result, a top Fed official said on Thursday.

The Fed publishes minutes of its policy-setting meetings three weeks after the fact. While the minutes do not specify what individual policymakers said, they do describe whether views were expressed by “some” or “a few” or “many” members. Traders often use those characterizations to try and determine where monetary policy may be heading.

“If I don’t say first quarter growth was weak, it might say in the minutes, A ‘few’ members thought first quarter growth was weak, and what were the rest of us thinking, that it was strong?” John Williams, president of the San Francisco Fed, asked rhetorically at a conference held at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. “We are getting ourselves into a transparency that is actually stopping us from having conversations.”