The Federal Reserve's monetary policy committee finished last year in a neutral stance on interest rates that may last indefinitely, according to information released Thursday.

"The committee had entered a period where vigilance was called for but where the direction and timing of the next policy move was uncertain," according to the official report of the Federal Open Market Committee's Dec. 22 session.

The FOMC, which convened again this week and left rates unchanged, releases minutes of its meetings after a six-week delay. Even belatedly, the minutes give important insights into the central bank.

Last fall, the Fed cut rates three times in six weeks to help stabilize rocky financial markets in the aftermath of international economic reverses. But by December, the policymakers saw their work as done and voted unanimously to hold rates steady.

"The system's policy easing actions since late September had helped to stabilize a dangerously eroding financial situation, and current financial conditions as well as underlying economic trends suggested that needed policy adjustments had been completed," the minutes said.

Meanwhile, the Fed intends to give more clues of its intentions. The FOMC has decided to issue periodic statements after meetings at which no policy or rate change occurred and to be more precise in describing its market-related directives to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

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