FOMC keeps fed funds rate near zero, says little about possible QE3
The Federal Open Market Committee once again kept the federal funds rate at next to nothing and said the economic recovery is progressing slower than members expected. The central bank said investment in nonresidential properties remains weak and persistent depression permeates the housing market. The FOMC admitted inflation has increased recently due to higher commodities and import prices, as well as supply-chain disruptions. "However, longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable," according to the committee. The Federal Reserve's quantitative easing program to buy up to $600 billion in Treasury securities ends June 30. The Fed "will regularly review the size and composition of its securities holdings and is prepared to adjust those holdings as appropriate." As it has for the past several months, the Fed said the recovery is continuing at a moderate pace. But now conditions in the labor market are deteriorating further from already depressed levels. The FOMC also reiterated its belief many factors hindering growth are transitory in nature, such as the "damping effect of higher food and energy prices on consumer purchasing power and spending, as well as supply chain disruptions associated with the tragic events in Japan." Committee members expect the pace of recovery to pick up over coming quarters with unemployment starting to decline toward levels closer to what the FOMC views as consistent with its dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability. Analysts at Capital Economics said the FOMC decision "offers no hint that the recent signs of a renewed economic slowdown might tempt the Fed to launch another round of large-scale asset purchases." "Overall, we suspect the Fed will stay on the sidelines for this year," Capital Economics Chief U.S. Economist Paul Ashworth said. The FOMC voted unanimously in favor of the monetary policy decision. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is set to hold a press conference Wednesday to discuss the decision. The federal funds rate has been 0% to 0.25% since December 2008. 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 for an extended period." In November, the Fed began its plan to purchase up to $600 billion of longer-term Treasurys 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.