Federal Reserve officials spoke with increased urgency at their last meeting about the need to provide more help for a weak US economy. In fact, many felt further support would be needed "fairly soon" unless things improved significantly. The minutes of the July 31-Aug. 1 meeting don't say what step would most likely be taken. The boldest move would be to launch a new program of bond buying to try to lower long-term interest rates to encourage more borrowing and spending.
After the meeting, the Fed announced no changes in its policies. But in a statement afterward, it appeared to signal a growing willingness to take further steps to boost the economy if it doesn't improve. The newly released minutes confirm that speculation and suggest the Fed is poised to act in the near future. Many analysts are looking to a speech by Chairman Ben Bernanke on Aug. 31 at an annual Fed conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., to provide more guidance on any new steps.