Sensing a slowdown in the housing market that could restrain the growth of consumer consumption, the Federal Reserve appears to be near the end of its interest rate raising cycle, according to minutes of its Dec. 13 monetary policy committee meeting.The Federal Open Market Committee minutes, released Jan. 3, say there are "tentative signs" that the housing market is beginning to slow. "A downshift in attitudes regarding the outlook for the housing sector could have significant market effects, in part by damping demand for houses by investors and speculators," the FOMC said. However, the FOMC members concluded that the data available at the Dec. 13 meeting "did not suggest a significant weakening in the sector," and they raised the federal funds rate by 25 basis points, to 4.25%. Further increases in interest rates are "becoming considerably less certain" and will depend on incoming data and their implications for future growth and inflation, according to the minutes. The FOMC meets again Jan. 31 to consider another rate hike.

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