The minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting released Friday show that some officials are worried that excessive risk-taking while interest rates are perpetually low could rock financial markets at some point.
It was during the Dec. 11 meeting that the Fed decided to keep its benchmark interest rate at a range between 1.5% and 1.75%, and it signaled that no movement — up or down — would happen in 2020 unless there was significant economic action that warranted it.
“A few participants raised the concern that keeping interest rates low over a long period might encourage excessive risk-taking, which could exacerbate imbalances in the financial sector,” the minutes said.
Furthermore, there were some concerns that with rates being so low, any financial instability caused by risk-taking “could make the next recession more severe than otherwise.”
There were also worries about low inflation that has driven the Fed to hold steady on monetary policy that the central bank said was “likely to remain appropriate for a time as long as incoming information about the economy remained broadly consistent with the economic outlook.”
The statement said “the current stance of monetary policy is appropriate to support sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the Committee’s 2 percent objective.”
Fed officials also think the U.S. economy is “showing resilience” in the face of uncertainties like the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China. And the minutes state this “suggested that the likelihood of a recession occurring over the medium term had fallen noticeably in recent months.”
Since last month’s meeting, though, tensions have escalated in the Middle East as the United States has struck Iranian forces in Iraq. On Friday, stocks sank on Wall Street and oil prices jumped after U.S. forces in Iraq killed a top Iranian general.
Yet many analysts say higher oil prices could potentially benefit the U.S. economy because of the sharp increase in the past decade in U.S. oil production. Higher oil prices encourage energy companies to invest in more drilling wells, which boosts demand for steel pipe and other equipment from U.S. factories, and creates jobs. Those trends increasingly offset the drag on consumer spending exerted by higher gas prices.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.