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Fed Recognized Change In Unemployment Goal Could Be Misunderstood

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WASHINGTON — When the Federal Reserve changed the guidelines for its stimulus campaign last month, it did not change its commitment to supporting the economy, according to an account of the decision that the Fed published Wednesday.

Janet L. Yellen, the Fed’s new chairwoman, convened a secret meeting in early March to discuss the shift, the Fed disclosed Wednesday. Two weeks later, at their regularly scheduled policymaking session, officials voted to replace a specific focus on a target for unemployment with a longer list of less specific objectives. Officials fretted that the decision would be misunderstood, but they concluded the change was necessary and the moment opportune.

The account, released after a standard three-week delay, reinforces other efforts by Fed officials to downplay the significance of the March shift. And investors, at first flustered by the change and Yellen’s initial explanation, appear to have accepted the Fed’s assurances. Interest rates that rose in the immediate aftermath of the March announcement continued to retrace those changes Wednesday; the stock market also took off after the minutes were released at 2 p.m.

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