US Federal Reserve signals it is close to a rate hike

Helen Cahill
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Fed Chair Janet Yellen Holds News Conference On Interest Rate Decision
The central bank also intends to bring down its balance sheet (Source: Getty)

The US Federal Reserve has signalled it is close to raising rates again as it considers ways to pare backs its balance sheet.

The US dollar weakened slightly as investors considered the minutes from the central bank's last policy meeting. At time of writing, the euro was up 0.13 per cent against the dollar at $1.1198.

Read more: Janet Yellen sets course for rate rises if economy performs well

The bank is waiting to see if there is evidence a recent economic slowdown was temporary before raising interest rates.

US economic growth slowed in the first quarter, but the policymakers said they were expecting an overall return to growth.

According to the Fed's minutes:

Members generally judged that it would be prudent to await additional evidence indicating that a recent slowdown in the pace of economic activity had been transitory before taking another step in removing accommodation.

The Fed officials also said at the 2-3 May meeting that they would look at strategies for winding-down the central bank's holdings of Treasury debt and mortgage-backed securities, with an aim to cut the balance sheet this year.

Read more: Yellen emphasises the importance of education in today's "changing economy"

The securities on the Fed's balance sheet were bought during the quantitative easing programme of bond-buying. The unconventional monetary policy tool was used during the financial crisis to try to push money out into the broader economy.

The US central bank currently holds around $4.5 trillion in securities, mostly in US Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

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