WASHINGTON — With the economy picking up at a slower-than-expected pace, the Federal Open Market Committee mulled changes to forward guidance and the possibility of a new large-scale asset purchase program, according to the minutes of its July 31 meeting, released Wednesday.

"Regarding the economic outlook, most participants agreed that economic growth was likely to remain moderate over coming quarters and then pick up gradually," the minutes state. "However, some participants indicated that they had lowered their near-term forecasts for economic growth in light of the weaker-than-expected increases in consumer spending and employment in recent months."

The Committee members discussed the possibility of extending the period during which it is likely to keep the fed funds rate extremely low, after previously agreeing to stick to a timetable of "at least" late 2014. At the most recent meeting, some members "suggested that the Committee should consider replacing the calendar date with guidance that was linked more directly to the economic factors that the Committee would consider in deciding to raise its target for the federal funds rate, or omit the forward guidance language entirely."

The Committee also discussed the possible merits of a new purchase program, and discussed the relative benefits of a mortgage-backed securities purchase program versus a Treasuries purchase program. While some members said a new purchase program might "boost business and consumer confidence," others "questioned the possible efficacy of such a program under present circumstances, and a couple suggested that the effects on economic activity might be transitory."

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