FOMC to keep fed funds rate low through late 2014

The Federal Open Market Committee once again maintained its zero-interest rate policy and said economic conditions are likely to keep the fed funds rate this low through late 2014.

Following its latest two-day meeting, the central bankers said the Federal Reserve will continue buying long-term Treasury bonds and reinvesting maturing mortgage-backed securities back into agency MBS in an effort “to promote a stronger pace of recovery.”

The newly constituted voting bloc of the FOMC expects modest economic growth over the next few quarters, as the elevated unemployment rate will decline only gradually and strains in global financial markets remain a significant downside risk to the U.S. economy.

The FOMC said the housing sector remains depressed, while long-term inflation estimates are stable.

The federal funds rate has been 0% to 0.25% since December 2008. And the FOMC reiterated its belief that “economic conditions, including low rates of resource utilization, subdued inflation trends, and stable inflation expectations, are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate,” adding “at least through late 2014” given the data the committee received in December.

Jeffrey Lacker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, cast the lone dissenting vote, questioning the time frame in which conditions are expected to warrant the near-zero fed funds rate.

In November, the Fed began its plan to purchase up to $600 billion of longer-term Treasury securities by the end of the second quarter “to promote a stronger pace of economic recovery and help ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with its mandate.”

Write to Jason Philyaw.

Follow him on Twitter: @jrphilyaw.

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