WASHINGTON, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- Top officials of the U.S. Federal Reserve remained divided on the timing of scaling back its stimulus program, showed minutes of the Fed's July policy meeting released Wednesday.
"A few members emphasized the importance of being patient and evaluating additional information on the economy before deciding on any changes to the pace of asset purchases," according to the minutes of the July 30-31 meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the Fed's policy setting arm.
"At the same time, a few others pointed to the contingent plan that had been articulated on behalf of the Committee the previous month, and suggested that it might soon be time to slow somewhat the pace of purchases as outlined in that plan," the minutes added.
Minutes for each regularly scheduled meeting of the FOMC are usually made available with a three-week lag.
The Fed officials generally anticipated that the growth of U.S. economy would pick up somewhat in the second half of 2013 and strengthen further thereafter. Factors cited as likely to support a pickup in economic activity included highly accommodative monetary policy, receding effects of fiscal restraint and continued strength in housing sector, the minutes showed.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke announced a tentative plan in June that the central bank would start winding down its 85-billion-U.S. dollar monthly asset purchases program later this year if the economy continues to improve as they expect.
Fed officials have stressed since then that the decision on bond-buying reduction is data dependent. Economic data have been mixed recently and the statement released after the July meeting offered little new information beyond Bernanke's announcement.
Investors were scrutinizing the minutes of the July meeting as it is widely expected that the Fed would initiate the tapering as early as September.
Since the onset of the financial crisis, the Fed has kept its short-term interest rates at historically low levels and completed two rounds of quantitative easing programs, known as QE1 and QE2 respectively. It is now purchasing longer-term government debt and mortgage-backed securities at a pace of 85 billion dollars per month, dubbed as QE3.
The minutes also said that the Fed officials considered whether to add more information concerning the contingent outlook for asset purchases to the policy statement, but finally judged that doing so might prompt an unwarranted shift in market expectations regarding asset purchases.