Fed repeated promise to leave interest rates on hold until late 2014
The US Federal Reserve on Wednesday repeated its promise to leave interest rates on hold until at least late 2014 but offered few clues into whether it might offer additional stimulus later this year.
The Fed described the economy as expanding moderately, just as it did in March, and said the unemployment rate had declined but remains elevated.
Officials noted a pick up in inflation but said it was largely attributable to energy cost hikes that will affect price growth only temporarily.
Economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through late 2014, the US central bank said in its policy statement.
Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker again dissented against the decision, saying he believed rates would need to be raised before that time frame.
As Fed officials gathered on Wednesday, the US government reported that orders for long-lasting manufactured goods plunged 4.2% in March, the biggest drop since the economy was nose-diving in early 2009.
The data was the latest to suggest the US economy lost momentum as the first quarter drew to a close.
US economic growth has been just firm enough to weaken the case for additional stimulus through Fed purchases of government or mortgage bonds. GDP expanded at a 3% annual rate in the fourth quarter but is seen slowing to around a 2.5% pace in the first three months of this year.
Follows the FOMC release.
Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in March suggests that the economy has been expanding moderately. Laburo market conditions have improved in recent months; the unemployment rate has declined but remains elevated. Household spending and business fixed investment have continued to advance. Despite some signs of improvement, the housing sector remains depressed. Inflation has picked up somewhat, mainly reflecting higher prices of crude oil and gasoline. However, longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.
Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee expects economic growth to remain moderate over coming quarters and then to pick up gradually. Consequently, the Committee anticipates that the unemployment rate will decline gradually toward levels that it judges to be consistent with its dual mandate. Strains in global financial markets continue to pose significant downside risks to the economic outlook. The increase in oil and gasoline prices earlier this year is expected to affect inflation only temporarily, and the Committee anticipates that subsequently inflation will run at or below the rate that it judges most consistent with its dual mandate.
To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee expects to maintain a highly accommodative stance for monetary policy. In particular, the Committee decided today to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that economic conditions--including low rates of resource utilization and a subdued outlook for inflation over the medium run--are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through late 2014.
The Committee also decided to continue its program to extend the average maturity of its holdings of securities as announced in September. The Committee is maintaining its existing policies 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. The Committee will regularly review the size and composition of its securities holdings and is prepared to adjust those holdings as appropriate to promote a stronger economic recovery in a context of price stability.
Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Elizabeth A. Duke; Dennis P. Lockhart; Sandra Pianalto; Sarah Bloom Raskin; Daniel K. Tarullo; John C. Williams; and Janet L. Yellen. Voting against the action was Jeffrey M. Lacker, who does not anticipate that economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate through late 2014.