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Fed accidentally released confidential staff projections

[WASHINGTON] The Federal Reserve said it inadvertently released on its public website confidential economic projections prepared by its staff for the June 16-17 meeting of the policy- making Federal Open Market Committee.

The Fed drew attention to the mistake in a statement Friday in Washington. The matter has been referred to the Fed's Office of Inspector General, according to the statement.

The projections show the Fed staff expected the federal funds rate to average 0.35 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2015. Economists said that implied one interest-rate increase by the Fed this year. The staff projections don't represent the views of Fed policy makers, who released their own forecasts after their June meeting.

Friday's disclosure comes two years after central bank officials accidentally released the Federal Open Market Committee minutes to bank lobbyists and congressional staff, raising questions about the Fed's internal controls. In April 2013 a member of the Fed's congressional liaison staff e-mailed a copy of the record to more than 100 people about 19 hours before the minutes were scheduled to be published.

On Friday, the Fed said that on June 29, "an updated package of code was posted that inadvertently included three files containing staff economic forecasts that are confidential FOMC information," the Fed said.

The Fed said it has since "implemented procedures to prevent inadvertent posting" of internal material, said Susan Stawick, a spokeswoman for the central bank who didn't provide details. "We're committed to taking further steps if needed," she said.

The staff's forecasts "are clearly below the Fed's median" forecast for the federal funds rate, said Guy Lebas, managing director at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia.

Fed officials' forecasts released in June implied two rate increases in 2015, with the benchmark lending rate finishing the year at 0.625 per cent, according to their median estimate.

"Does it change anything for the outlook for the Fed? No, absolutely not," said Aneta Markowska, chief US economist at Societe Generale SA in New York. "The FOMC already had these when they met in June and they published theirs already, so they took this into account and said we disagree."