Fed Debates Extending Its Mortgage Purchases Beyond March

Should the Federal Reserve continue to support the housing market through its mortgage-purchase program beyond March 2010? That question stirred some contention at the most recent meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, according to the minutes of that meeting released this week.

All members at the meeting agreed there should be “no changes to the Committee’s large scale asset purchase programs” at that time. The committee affirmed its intention to purchase $1.25 trillion of agency mortgage-backed securities and about $175 billion of agency debt by the end of the first quarter of 2010, and to “gradually slow the pace of these purchases to promote a smooth transition in markets.”

But depending on market conditions, those purchases by the Fed may not end in March. In fact, the committee “emphasized that it would continue to evaluate the timing and overall amounts of its purchases of securities in light of the evolving economic outlook and conditions in the financial markets.”

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