The Federal Reserve Board's policymaking committee met Tuesday, and economists expected the panel to lower interest rates after the agreement to slash the federal budget becomes law.

Although the final decision of the Federal Open Market Committee will be kept secret until after the next scheduled meeting Nov. 13, lower rates could become a reality in a matter of days on everything from mortgages to credit cards.The minutes of the committee are routinely kept under wraps for about six weeks in an effort not to influence financial markets.

"We think they're probably talking in terms of a directive that will be biased toward easing, but it'll probably have a lot of conditions on it," such as passage of the $500 billion budget pact, said Robert Dieli, an economist at Northern Trust in Chicago.

Dieli also said the Fed is taking another "environmental factor" into account - the Iraq crisis.

Norman Robertson, chief economist at Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh, agreed. "I suspect they might wait until the budget deficit reduction package has passed the Congress and they might ease the policy a notch," he said.