More clues about Fed’s tapering plans due

By Greg Robb, MarketWatch 

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Economists will be trying to figure out what it would take to get the Federal Reserve to begin to slow down the pace of its asset purchases and whether the strong June employment data was enough.

The highlight of the week’s economic reports will come Wednesday when the central bank releases the minutes of the June 18-19 meeting.

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At his press conference after that meeting,Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke laid out a more rapid timetable for the central bank to wind down its $85 billion-per-month bond-buying program than the market had expected.

Bernanke said tapering could start “later this year” and end sometime when the unemployment rate should be “in the vicinity of 7%,”which he would could happen “around midyear” 2014 if the economy continued to improve.

Fed watchers want to know what other Fed officials think about these tapering plans. They want to know what factors caused the Fed to lean toward tapering soon.

Solid Job Numbers Increase Fear of Fed Bond Action

The Labor Department’s strong June employment report – the addition of 195,000 jobs – has improved the odds the Federal Reserve will begin to pull back on its $85 billion-per-month bond-buying program by the end of 2013. WSJ’s Sudeep Reddy explains.

In speeches since Bernanke’s press conference, there seem to be two schools of thought emerging.

Some officials have said no decision to taper has been made yet and any move depends on the data.

For instance, William Dudley, the president of the New York Fed, said last week that a tapering is not “hardwired.” So the data would have to continue to improve between now and September.

The other view, espoused by Fed. Gov. Jeremy Stein, is that the cumulative improvement in the labor market since last September is enough to start the process.

The unemployment rate has fallen from 8.1% when the Fed started the latest round of asset purchases.

In Stein’s view, weak data would only impact the pace of the slowdown in asset purchases, not the start of the process.

“We’ve heard both views, we don’t know where everyone lands,” said Paul Edelstein, U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight.

The minutes may shed some light on whether it will first reduce the speed of its purchases of Treasurys, mortgage-backed securities, or both, said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics.

The brisk pace of job growth has convinced many economists that the Fed will taper at their meeting in mid-September.

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