The Federal Reserve in early November viewed a "near-term" increase in interest rates as likely, but top officials also expressed more alarm about persistently low inflation in a sign the bank might not be aggressive in 2018 as previously expected.
The language from the Fed's Oct. 31-Nov. 1 meeting was softer than in the September discussions, reflecting worries that low inflation might also be a result of "developments that could prove more persistent," according to the Fed minutes released Wednesday.
Despite the nagging doubt the Fed still appears on the cusp of raise interest rates again soon. The benchmark fed funds rate, now between 1% and 1.25%, is likely to be raised a quarter-point at the bank's Dec. 12-13 meeting, Wall Street predicts.
The big question is whether the Fed will stick to three planned rate increases in 2018 if inflation remains low. The outlook is also clouded by the pending departure of Chairwoman Janet Yellen, who'll be replaced by board member Jerome Powell early next year.