Fed holds rates unchanged ahead of an expected hike in December
Central Bank says economic activity rising at strong rate
The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged and stayed on course to hike in December despite recent jitters in financial markets and a critical president.
The U. S. central bank said “economic activity has been rising at a strong rate” and job gains “have been strong,” acknowledging a drop in the unemployment rate, while repeating its outlook for “further gradual” rate increases in its statement Thursday following a two- day meeting in Washington.
Risks to the outlook appear “roughly balanced,” the Federal Open Market Committee said, leaving that language unchanged from the prior meeting in late September. Inflation expectations, which have slipped slightly in recent weeks according to some measures, were described as “little changed, on balance,” the same as in the last statement.
“Absent anything new between now and the last meeting of the year, they’ll continue on with another 25- basis- point increase” in December, said James Kahn, an economics professor at Yeshiva University and a former vice president at the New York Fed. “The language is designed to try to not look too far ahead,” to give them flexibility, he said.
By keeping the door open to a fourth 2018 hike in December, officials are sticking to their gradual upward path, trying to prolong the second- longest U. S. expansion on re- cord without making an error. Leaving monetary policy too loose risks stoking excess inflation and asset bubbles, while tightening too fast could cause a recession.
The unanimous 9- 0 decision left the benchmark federal funds rate in a target range of 2 percent to 2.25 percent, following eight quarter-point hikes since late 2015. The interest rate the Fed pays banks on excess reserves -- a tool for keeping the effective funds rate within the Fed’s target range — was left unchanged at 2.2 percent, as expected.
Stocks slipped and the dollar extended gains after the decision was announced, with the S& P 500 Index closing 0.3 percent lower at 2,806.83. Tenyear Treasury yields were slightly higher at 3.24 percent at 4:15 p.m. in New York.