WASHINGTON — If the U.S. Congress had failed to lift the debt ceiling by its Aug. 2 deadline, senior Fed officials were prepared to take necessary actions to stabilize the market, if warranted.

According to minutes released Tuesday by the Federal Open Market Committee's of its Aug. 9th meeting, officials met over videoconferencing one day prior to the deadline to review possible actions the Fed could take if the U.S. Treasury was unable to meet its obligations or in the event of a downgrade of the U.S.' sovereign credit rating.

Lawmakers took negotiations over whether to raise the maximum amount the government could borrow to the brink of default earlier this summer, reaching a deal at the 11th hour. That wasn't enough to prevent Standard & Poor's from downgrading the U.S.' long-held AAA credit rating for the first time in history.

Officials agreed the Fed would have to measure their response based on unfolding events. The Fed did not specify what actions it would have specifically taken with respect to any of its contingency planning.

"With respect to potential policy actions, participants agreed that the appropriate response would depend importantly on the actual conditions in markets and should generally consist of standard operations," according to the Fed's minutes.

At the meeting, staff provided an update on the debt limit talks, conditions in financial markets, as well as plans the Fed and Treasury had developed to pay the government's bills, as well as potential implications for bank supervision and regulatory policies, and possible actions the Fed could take if there were disruptions to the market.

Outright, officials eliminated the necessity of taking certain actions, especially with regards to changes in regulation of financial institutions.

"Participants generally anticipated that there would be no need to make changes to existing bank regulations, the operation of the discount window, or the product of open market operations," according to the minutes.

Some participants stressed that any approach taken by the central bank would have to maintain "the traditional separation of the Federal Reserve's actions from the Treasury's debt management decisions."

 

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