Fed Officials Prefer Rate Hike to Asset Sales

Most Federal Reserve officials prefer to raise benchmark interest rates before selling assets when the time comes to tighten policy, minutes of their April meeting showed on Wednesday.

During an extensive discussion of how the central bank might pull back its massive support for the world's largest economy, officials agreed they would eventual shrink the Fed's much expanded portfolio over the medium term, and that getting rid of mortgage-related debt would be a priority.

"A majority of participants preferred that sales of agency securities come after the first increase in the (Fed's) target for short-term interest rates," the Fed said.

"And many of those participants also expressed a preference that the sales proceed relatively gradually, returning (Fed holdings) to all Treasury securities over perhaps five years," the minutes said.

Discussion of the removal of monetary stimulus should not be seen as an indication the Fed is ready to start down that road any time soon, policy makers said.

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Neil Stempleman)

((mark.felsenthal@thomsonreuters.com; +1 202 898 8329; Reuters Messaging: mark.felsenthal.reuters.com@reuters.net))