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Fed seems on track to slow bond buys by year's end

Caption
(AP)
Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke testifies in Washington in July. The Federal Reserve remains divided over the timing of easing bond purchases.

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Federal Reserve appears on track to slow its bond purchases by the end of this year if the economy continues to improve. But it remains divided over the exact timing of the move.

That’s the message from the minutes of the Fed’s July 30-31 meeting released Wednesday.

A few policymakers said they wanted to assess more economic data before deciding when to scale back the central bank’s $85 billion a month in Treasury and mortgage bond purchases. These policymakers “emphasized the importance of being patient,” the minutes said.

Others said it “might soon be time” to slow the purchases, which have helped keep long-term borrowing rates near record lows.

The minutes gave no indication of how fast the Fed would scale back its purchases once it begins.

Since the July policy meeting, a few Fed officials have suggested the central bank could slow the bond buying as soon as September. By then, updated reports on U.S. employment and economic growth will have been issued.

The Fed is considered most likely to slow its bond buying after its September or December policy meeting because after each one, Chairman Ben Bernanke will hold a news conference and could explain such a major step.

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