FOMC keeps ZIRP, maintains QE2
The Federal Open Market Committee once again kept the federal funds rate at next to nothing and reiterated its commitment to reinvesting maturing securities into longer-term Treasury securities through the second quarter. The Fed said the economic recovery "is on a firmer footing," and conditions in the labor market "appear to be improving gradually," while household spending and business spending is rising. But nonresidential investment is still weak and the housing sector remains depressed. "Nonetheless, longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable, and measures of underlying inflation have been subdued," according to the Fed. While the central bank also said rising prices for energy and other commodities are putting more pressure on inflation, the FOMC expects this "to be transitory" and anticipates a "gradual return to higher levels of resource utilization in a context of price stability." The FOMC voted unanimously in favor of the monetary policy. Board member Kevin Warsh didn't vote. He resigned in February. 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 for an extended period." 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." More than a few analysts question the tactic, which has become known as QE2. Write to Jason Philyaw.