The distinction is that 'gradual' means as needed, or as seen to be necessary by the ongoing data.
'Measured' was meant to imply a steady 25 basis point at a time rate of increases to an objective which some thought to be 100 bp.
The Fed also raised the interest paid to the Banks on Required and Excess Reserves to 50 bp.
In the second press release below, the NY Fed says that they have about $2 Trillion at the ready to back up the Fed's targets.
As suspected, the Fed raised, but it is very likely to be quite gradual, since the data does not fully support it despite all the verbage which has been put out there to justify it.
So to accentuate a very important point, this is not your father's interest rate tightening cycle.
The Fed is raising rates in order to 'end' ZIRP and to begin to provide themselves some maneuvering room out of the policy corner into which they had painted themselves in their thrashing within a credibility trap of lack of reform, top down stimulus, and thereby a continuing lack of broad, organic recovery which is apparent to all those who are not blinded by an ideological bias, a preoccupation with abstract and otherworldly models, and/or their paychecks.
Federal Open Market Committee - December Policy Statement
Release Date: December 16, 2015
Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in October suggests that economic activity has been expanding at a moderate pace. Household spending and business fixed investment have been increasing at solid rates in recent months, and the housing sector has improved further; however, net exports have been soft.
A range of recent labor market indicators, including ongoing job gains and declining unemployment, shows further improvement and confirms that underutilization of labor resources has diminished appreciably since early this year. Inflation has continued to run below the Committee's 2 percent longer-run objective, partly reflecting declines in energy prices and in prices of non-energy imports. Market-based measures of inflation compensation remain low; some survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations have edged down.
Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee currently expects that, with gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will continue to expand at a moderate pace and labor market indicators will continue to strengthen.
Overall, taking into account domestic and international developments, the Committee sees the risks to the outlook for both economic activity and the labor market as balanced. Inflation is expected to rise to 2 percent over the medium term as the transitory effects of declines in energy and import prices dissipate and the labor market strengthens further. The Committee continues to monitor inflation developments closely.
The Committee judges that there has been considerable improvement in labor market conditions this year, and it is reasonably confident that inflation will rise, over the medium term, to its 2 percent objective. Given the economic outlook, and recognizing the time it takes for policy actions to affect future economic outcomes, the Committee decided to raise the target range for the federal funds rate to 1/4 to 1/2 percent. The stance of monetary policy remains accommodative after this increase, thereby supporting further improvement in labor market conditions and a return to 2 percent inflation.
In determining the timing and size of future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee will assess realized and expected economic conditions relative to its objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation. This assessment will take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and international developments.
In light of the current shortfall of inflation from 2 percent, the Committee will carefully monitor actual and expected progress toward its inflation goal. The Committee expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant only gradual increases in the federal funds rate; the federal funds rate is likely to remain, for some time, below levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run. However, the actual path of the federal funds rate will depend on the economic outlook as informed by incoming data.
The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction, and it anticipates doing so until normalization of the level of the federal funds rate is well under way. This policy, by keeping the Committee's holdings of longer-term securities at sizable levels, should help maintain accommodative financial conditions.
Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Janet L. Yellen, Chair; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Lael Brainard; Charles L. Evans; Stanley Fischer; Jeffrey M. Lacker; Dennis P. Lockhart; Jerome H. Powell; Daniel K. Tarullo; and John C. Williams.
Approximately $2 Trillion is available to the NY Fed to implement this policy change, although I would hesitate to think of this as anything near a hard limitation to the Treasury's willingness to spend or the Fed's willingness to monetize, and to tinker with the markets through their trading desks and those of their associated Banks.
Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Statement Regarding Overnight Reverse Repurchase Agreements
December 16, 2015
During its meeting on December 15–16, 2015, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) directed the Open Market Trading Desk (the Desk) at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (New York Fed), effective December 17, 2015, to undertake open market operations as necessary to maintain the federal funds rate in a target range of ¼ to ½ percent, including overnight reverse repurchase operations (ON RRPs) at an offering rate of 0.25 percent, in amounts limited only by the value of Treasury securities held outright in the System Open Market Account (SOMA) that are available for such operations and by a per-counterparty limit of $30 billion per day...
...the Desk anticipates that around $2 trillion of Treasury securities will be available for ON RRP operations to fulfill the FOMC’s domestic policy directive. In the highly unlikely event that the value of bids received in an ON RRP operation exceeds the amount of available securities, the Desk will allocate awards using a single-price auction based on the stop-out rate at which the overall size limit is reached, with all bids below this rate awarded in full at the stop-out rate and all bids at this rate awarded on a pro rata basis at the stop-out rate.