Fed Can "Afford to be Patient" on Rate Hikes: Minutes

Officials with the U.S. central bank acknowledged that their policy path ahead is, quote, "less clear", after approving an interest rate hike at their most recent meeting.

Minutes released Wednesday from the Federal Open Market Committee gathering in December showed the rate hike came with reluctance from a few members who thought the lack of inflationary pressures argued against another increase.

The Fed leaders agreed that "some further gradual increases" in the benchmark funds rate would be appropriate. What that meant in practical terms, though, became less clear for a central bank that only a few months earlier was pointing to four hikes in 2019.

The minutes noted that the low-inflationary backdrop means the Fed can "afford to be patient about further policy firming."

The Fed hiked its benchmark rate a quarter point to a range of 2.25%to 2.5%, the fourth increase in the year and the ninth since policy normalization began in December 2015.

The lack of direction was reflected in rate forecasts among individual members. Officials cut their expected moves this year from four to two, citing a range of concerns about growth and volatility in the financial markets.