Fed officials worried about 'tight' credit and 'fragile' markets in March

Federal Reserve officials spoke about "tight" credit markets and "fragile" financial markets, according to the minutes of the March 17-18 meeting, which were released today in Washington.

"Pressure on financial institutions," was "generally intensifying," the minutes read. "Overall, participants expressed concern about downside risks to an outlook for activity that was already weak."

While the minutes tend to be backward looking, since the minutes contain information discussed three weeks ago and participants tend to focus on economic reports that are dated, there was discussion that looked ahead.

"Looking beyond the very near term, a number of market forces and policies now in place were seen as eventually leading to economic recovery," the minutes said.

Nomura chief global economist Paul Sheard told DailyFinance Tuesday that he sees the U.S. "recession coming to an end" and the economy "starting to expand a bit."

The Federal Open Market Committee unanimously agreed to push more than $1 trillion into the U.S. economy, which lengthens its policy to increase the U.S. money supply.

The FOMC policy to put more money into the financial system to help create loans and boost spending, Sheard said, will shorten the length of the economic recession in the U.S. He's predicting growth to begin in the third quarter of this year and continue into 2010.

The Fed staff sees the unemployment rate rising "steeply" through the early part of next year and then flattening at that level for the remainder of 2010.

Gross domestic product estimates for the second half of this year and 2010 were cut by Fed staff. The minutes showed they are forecasting GDP expansion, coming "slowly next year."

Anthony Massucci is a senior writer for DailyFinance. He previously covered the Federal Reserve for Bloomberg News.
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