When Will the Fed Raise Rates? Weekend Reading for Wonks

Threats to global growth and turmoil in financial markets confront the U.S. central bank, which released the minutes of its March meeting this week. Here's how to read its thinking.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday published the minutes of its March meeting. At that meeting, the U.S. central bank announced that the range of its benchmark interest rate would remain unchanged, highlighting the risks to the domestic economy from shaky financial markets and sluggish activity globally. The decision, according to economists at Goldman Sachs, constituted one of the most dovish surprises of the new millennium, judging from the magnitude of the market reaction.

The Fed had kept interest rates at historic lows for several years to help the economy recover from the financial crisis. Expectations surrounding the evolution of its short-term policy rate affect the longer-term interest rates that businesses and households pay to borrow money.

The minutes show the breadth of opinions and the intensity of debate within the central bank, and offer a glimpse of policymakers' assessments of the economy stateside and abroad. 

Here we annotate the debate: