Below are the minutes released by the Federal Open Market Committee from their September 18, 2007 meeting:
In the agenda for this meeting, it was reported that advices of the election of Charles L. Evans as a member of the Federal Open Market Committee had been received and that he had executed his oath of office.
By unanimous vote, the Federal Open Market Committee selected James A. Clouse and Daniel G. Sullivan to serve as Associate Economists until the selection of their successors at the first regularly scheduled meeting of the Committee in 2008.
The Manager of the System Open Market Account (SOMA) reported on recent developments in foreign exchange markets. There were no open market operations in foreign currencies for the System's account in the period since the previous meeting. The Manager also reported on developments in domestic financial markets and on System open market operations in government securities and federal agency obligations during the period since the previous meeting. By unanimous vote, the Committee ratified these transactions.
The information reviewed at the September meeting suggested that economic activity advanced at a moderate rate early in the third quarter. After expanding at a robust pace in July, retail sales rose at a somewhat slower rate in August. Orders and shipments of capital goods posted solid gains in July. However, residential investment weakened further, even before the recent disruptions in mortgage markets. In addition, private payrolls posted only a small gain in August, and manufacturing production decreased after gains in the previous two months. Meanwhile, core inflation rose a bit from the low rates observed in the spring but remained moderate through July.
Private nonfarm payroll employment rose only modestly in August, and the levels of employment in June and July were revised down. The weakness in employment was spread fairly widely across industries. Residential construction and manufacturing posted noticeable declines in jobs, employment in wholesale trade and transportation was little changed, and hiring at business services was well below recent trends. Both the average workweek and aggregate hours were unchanged in August. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.6 percent, 0.1 percentage point above its second-quarter level and equal to its 2006 average.
After posting solid gains in June and July, total industrial production edged up only a bit in August. This increase was attributable to a surge in electricity generation, as temperatures swung from mild in July to very warm in August. After large gains in the preceding two months, manufacturing output declined in August, held down by a decrease in the production of motor vehicles and parts. High-tech output rose only modestly in August, but production gains in June and July were revised up considerably.
Consumer spending appeared to have strengthened early in the summer from its subdued second-quarter pace. Although auto sales were weak in July, real outlays for other goods rose briskly. At the same time, spending on services was up moderately despite a drop in outlays for energy associated with relatively cool weather in the eastern part of the United States. In August, consumption appeared to have posted another solid gain. Although nominal retail sales outside the motor vehicle sector were about flat (abstracting from a drop in nominal sales at gasoline stations associated with falling gas prices), vehicle sales stepped up and warmer weather likely caused an increase in energy usage. Real disposable income rose further in July, as wages and salaries posted a strong gain and energy prices came down. However, household wealth likely was providing a diminishing impetus to the pace of spending, reflecting recent declines in stock market wealth and an apparent further deceleration in house prices. Readings on consumer sentiment turned down in August after having risen in July, and the Reuters/Michigan index remained near its relatively low August level in early September.
The housing sector remained exceptionally weak. Home sales had dropped considerably this year: Sales of new and existing single-family homes in July were down substantially from their averages over the second half of last year. Demand was restrained by deteriorating conditions in the subprime mortgage market and by an increase in rates for thirty-year fixed-rate conforming mortgages. In the nonconforming mortgage market, the availability of financing to borrowers recently appeared to have been crimped even further. Most forward-looking indicators of housing demand, including an index of pending home sales, pointed to a further deterioration in sales in the near term. Single-family starts slid in July to their lowest reading since 1996, and adjusted permit issuance continued on a downward trajectory. Although single-family housing starts had come down substantially from their peak, the drop had lagged the decline in demand, and as a result, inventories of new homes had risen considerably. In the multifamily sector, starts in July were in line with readings thus far this year and at the low end of the fairly narrow range seen since 1997. Meanwhile, house prices generally continued to decelerate.