"Members generally judged that it would be prudent to await additional evidence indicating that a recent slowdown in the pace of economic activity had been transitory before taking another step in removing accommodation," according to the minutes, which provided the latest indication of the Fed's heightened caution over policy tightening.
Still, Fed officials made it clear they expected the economy to pick up momentum.
Wall Street briefly pared gains and the US dollar fell against a basket of currencies after the minutes were released. Yields on US Treasury debt turned lower.
"They left June open. I think they would move in June, followed by a fourth-quarter hike," said Matt Toms, chief investment officer of fixed income at Voya Investment Management in Atlanta.
US central bank policymakers also discussed at length the reasons for the first-quarter slowdown and why a measure of underlying price gains also fell further below their 2 percent inflation target, according to the minutes.
The Federal Reserve has more than $4 trillion in Treasury debt and mortgage-backed securities, largely accumulated as part of the effort to stimulate the economy in the wake of the 2007-2009 recession.
The staff proposal, presented as a "possible operational approach" to winding down the balance sheet, entails halting reinvestments of ever-larger amounts of maturing securities.
Under the plan, a limit would be set on the amount of securities allowed to fall off the balance sheet every month. Initially, the cap would be set at a low level, but every three months the Fed would allow deeper cuts.
"Nearly all policymakers expressed a favourable view of this general approach," the minutes said.
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