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Fed botches release of policy meeting minutes
The US Federal Reserve was forced into an embarrassing early release of the minutes from its March policy-setting meeting after realising it had sent them to more than 100 people on Tuesday.

The minutes from the March 19-20 meeting, which showed that some policymakers thought the economy was on track for the central bank's quantitative easing programme to end as soon as this year, were sent to a group largely comprising congressional aides and trade organisation figures, a day early.

As a result of the inadvertent leak, which was only discovered early Wednesday morning, they were released to the wider public five hours early on Wednesday, at 9am EST, rather than the scheduled 2pm publication time.

Although the leak is believed to be "entirely accidental", the Bank has launched an investigation into the lapse, given the market-sensitive nature of the minutes. However, discouraging US jobs figures released last week could alter policymakers' views, and have likely muted the market impact of the minutes.

"At this time we do not know whether there was any trading related to inadvertent early distribution of the minutes," a Fed spokesman said.

"We will be working with market regulators, the SEC and CFTC, to ensure they have the information they need to evaluate the incident."

The minutes showed that a few policymakers expected to ease off the pace of asset purchases by mid-year, eventually halting asset purchases before 2014.

"A few members felt that the risks and costs of purchases, along with the improved outlook since last fall, would likely make a reduction in the pace of purchases appropriate around midyear, with purchases ending later this year," they said.

"Several others thought that if the outlook for labor market conditions improved as anticipated, it would probably be appropriate to slow purchases later in the year and to stop them by year-end."

At the meeting, the Fed decided to continue the ramped-up, $85bn a month asset purchase programme unveiled by chairman Ben Bernanke in December.

The FTSE 100 has climbed nearly 14 points following the release, while the S&P 500 spiked on its open on the back of the news. However, markets are not expected to display a significant reaction to the minutes, which have since been overshadowed by discouraging jobs figures released last week.

"Those Fed minutes have rather caught markets on the hop, but it is perhaps unwise to attribute too much importance to them in the wake of Friday’s job numbers," said Chris Beauchamp, analyst at IG Markets.

"Any comments about reducing QE before the end of the year now look somewhat out of place following the surprise weakness in the US economy."

Leaks from Fed are relatively uncommon, with the last slip-up in November 2011. However, they were a regular occurrence prior to 1994, when monetary policy shifts were communicated so cryptically that leaks were the only means of accessing the internal workings at the once-opaque central bank.

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