U.S. Fed concerned Ukraine crisis could escalate: minutes

Fed policy makers also expect to continue cutback to its stimulus program

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Federal Reserve policy makers have expressed concern that the confrontation with Russia over Ukraine would escalate and hurt global economic growth, the minutes to their March 18-19 meeting showed Wednesday, AFP reported.

Discussing Russia's annexation of Ukraine, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said that the spillover would not likely hurt the U.S. economy, but could impact world growth, the minutes showed.

Meeting on the same day as the annexation, the Fed officials said the events "might have negative implications for global growth if they escalated and led to a protracted period of geopolitical tensions in that region."

The Federal Reserve policy makers also expect to continue the steady cutback to its stimulus program, the minutes to the March meeting showed.

The group, led by new Fed Chair Janet Yellen, hedged their commitment on the performance of the economy, but the minutes show that, despite recent economic weakness, they remain on track to wind up the bond-buying program late this year.

FOMC members agreed that "if the economy continued to develop as anticipated, the committee would likely reduce the pace of asset purchases in further measured steps at future meetings," the minutes said.

The group decided at the March gathering to make the third monthly $10 billion cut in bond purchases since December, pulling the program down to $55 billion.

The move put the central bank on track to end quantitative easing operations, in place at various amounts since 2008 to push down longer-term interest rates, by November.

The minutes confirmed that all or nearly all the FOMC members agreed on the Fed's monetary path, including dropping its indicative targets for unemployment and inflation for more qualitative guidance to markets on plans to eventually raise interest rates.

Most were confident in the economy resuming a moderate pace of growth after the December-February slowdown, though there was significant disagreement over the degree and cause of slack in the labor market.

One concern discussed in the meeting was that easy-money policies were fueling risky behavior in credit markets that could endanger financial stability.

Those worries included increased margin lending, a shift to commodity investing, higher equity prices, and greater lending to high-risk customers, both on the corporate and consumer level.

(With AFP)

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