By Peter Schroeder - 04/05/11 06:32 PM EDT
However, the housing market continues to drag on the recovery, as falling house prices nationwide continue to weigh down household wealth and consumer spending, and the wide number of unsold and foreclosed homes driving down demand.
In addition, recent increases in oil-and-gasoline prices are weakening consumer confidence, even as Fed officials maintained that price spikes there are not indicative of broader long-term inflation gaining steam.
"Business contacts in a variety of industries had expressed concern that consumers might pull back if gasoline prices rose significantly further and persisted at those elevated levels," the minutes stated.
Nonetheless, Fed officials believe the economic recovery is on track and poised to continue to make gradual gains in the upcoming months. Businesses reported to Fed officials their confidence in the recovery was building, and some had plans to expand hiring or production to meet rising demand from consumers.
On the jobs front, officials on the FOMC did note that much of the recent drop in the unemployment rate came from job-seekers dropping out of the job market altogether. Nonetheless, they agreed that employment gains seemed to be on the rise, and surveys of business contacts showed many employers planned to increase hiring in the coming months.
Having Bernanke regularly brief the press could help the FOMC explain its policy decisions and how it is working to meet its dual mandate of price stability and maximum employment, officials said.
The minutes also indicate that Fed officials discussed whether the central bank should begin to taper off its purchases of Treasury bonds as it neared the end of its second round of quantitative easing in the summer to avoid jarring the financial markets once the purchases stopped. However, officials ultimately concluded that the market did not appear to need that accommodation, and there was near universal agreement that no slowdown was needed.