Washington, March 17 (IANS) The US Federal Reserve kept its benchmark short-term interest rates unchanged as widely expected, noting that “global economic and financial developments continue to pose risks” to the US economy.
In a statement released on Wednesday after a two-day policy meeting, the Fed said U.S. “economic activity has been expanding at a moderate pace despite global economic and financial developments in recent months,” but these developments continue to pose risks, Xinhua news agency reported.
The Fed raised its target range for the federal funds rate by 25 basis points to 0.25-0.5 percent in December, the first rate hike in nearly a decade, marking the end of an era of extraordinary easing monetary policy.
But the turmoil in financial markets and a slowdown in global economy since the start of the year has raised increased concerns about the strength of the US economy, forcing Fed policymakers to hold off on any further rate hikes since then.
In its January policy statement, the Fed declined to make a judgement about the balance of risks to the US economy, an indication of the uncertainty about the impact of global economic and financial turbulence on the world’s largest economy.
The changes in the statement on risks signalled that Fed officials are inclined to wait for more time to assess the US economic outlook before raising interest rate again.
“We should not take the strength in the US labor market and consumption for granted,” Fed governor Lael Brainard said in a speech earlier this month. “From a risk-management perspective, this argues for patience as the outlook becomes clearer.”
About 76 percent of the business and academic economists said the Fed would wait until June to raise interest rates, while some 6 percent of economists predicted the central bank would increase interest rates in April, the latest survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal indicated.
The Fed’s updated projections released Wednesday showed that policymakers expected the federal funds rate to rise to around 0.9 percent at the end of 2016, implying two quarter-percentage-point rate increases this year, down from four estimated in December.