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Fed to purchase $600 billion in Treasurys to start QE2

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The Federal Reserve plans to purchase another $600 billion of long-term Treasury securities by the end of the second quarter. The central bank also voted to keep the benchmark fed funds rate at zero to 0.25% and continues to expect to do so for "an extended period." "The pace of the recovery in output and employment continues to be slow," officials said in a statement following a two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee in Washington. "Household spending is increasing gradually, but remains constrained by high unemployment, modest income growth, lower housing wealth, and tight credit." FOMC members said they chose to embark on the next round of purchasing Treasury bonds "to promote a stronger pace of economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with its mandate" of maximum employment and price stability. Some Fed officials have questioned the tactic of increasing the central bank's holdings of Treasury securities, which has become known as quantitative easing, doubting the benefits outweigh the costs. Thomas Hoening, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, once again voted against the FOMC decision. Hoening continues to rail against this level of monetary accommodation, saying it boosts "the risks of future financial imbalances" and will result in "long-term inflation expectations that could destabilize the economy." Some analysts agree. "The Fed may not have as much leeway as is commonly assumed to print money without inflicting major collateral damage on the economy," analysts at investment research firm TrimTabs said ahead of the FOMC meeting. Write to Jason Philyaw.

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