Policy-mak-ers at the Federal Reserve agreed last month to leave interest rates unchanged for the immediate future but to push them upward if the risk of inflation rises, according to minutes of their meeting released Friday.
The Federal Open Market Committee, which establishes monetary policy for the central bank, voted 10-2 on Feb. 8 not to tighten credit. But the panel advocated a "clear presumption" toward greater restraint if evidence of inflationary pressures increased, the minutes say.Indeed, just two weeks later, the Fed intensified its credit-tightening campaign by boosting a key lending rate after the government reported price increases at both the wholesale and retail levels in January.
The half-percentage point increase in the discount rate to 7 percent was the strongest signal the Federal Reserve could send of its intention to fight rising inflation by driving up interest rates. In recent weeks, Federal Reserve officials have indicated the central bank may hold off on further increases while it assesses the impact of its past actions, although analysts say the hiatus could be short-lived.