U.S. Markets closed

Federal Reserve keeps interest rates unchanged

Myles Udland
Markets Reporter

The Federal Reserve has kept interest rates unchanged.

On Wednesday, the U.S. central bank released its latest policy statement, maintaining a target benchmark interest rate range of 1.5%-1.75%.

Wall Street had expected the Fed would make no changes to its interest rate policy on Wednesday after raising rates in March for the sixth time since the financial crisis. Wednesday’s announcement was not accompanied by a press conference with Fed chair Jay Powell nor were updated economic forecasts from the Fed released.

In its statement, the Fed said, “Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in March indicates that the labor market has continued to strengthen and that economic activity has been rising at a moderate rate. Job gains have been strong, on average, in recent months, and the unemployment rate has stayed low.”

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell speaks following the Federal Open Market Committee meeting in Washington in March. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve releases its latest monetary policy statement after a two-day meeting. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The biggest development in the statement, however, was a tweak in the Fed’s language with respect to inflation.

On a 12-month basis, both overall inflation and inflation for items other than food and energy have moved close to 2 percent,” the Fed’s statement said.

The Fed has a goal of 2% price inflation. 

In March, the Fed said that inflation excluding food and energy had “continued to run below 2 percent” on a 12-month basis.

And so in making this change, Fed officials are acknowledging that inflation is getting closer to its target. In March, personal consumption expenditures (PCE) rose 1.9% over the prior year when stripping out food and energy. Core PCE is the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation. 

A sustained turn in inflation above this 2% target, or even a sustained period of inflation hitting this target, could change the Fed’s policy outlook in the coming years. 

Following the release, equity markets in the U.S. were higher, but little-changed, with the Dow up 0.2%, the S&P 500 u 0.1%, and the Nasdaq up 0.3%.

In the bond market, Treasuries were higher, but little-changed, with the 2-year yield right at 2.5% and the 10-year sitting at 2.96%. Last week, the 10-year moved above 3% for the first time in four years.

The Fed’s statement also had no mention of the trade tensions that some economists have warned could impact the economic outlook both in the U.S. and abroad. The Fed also removed a sentence from the March statement which said, “The economic outlook has strengthened in recent months.” 

Here’s the full text of the Fed’s announcement:

Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in March indicates that the labor market has continued to strengthen and that economic activity has been rising at a moderate rate. Job gains have been strong, on average, in recent months, and the unemployment rate has stayed low. Recent data suggest that growth of household spending moderated from its strong fourth-quarter pace, while business fixed investment continued to grow strongly. On a 12-month basis, both overall inflation and inflation for items other than food and energy have moved close to 2 percent. Market-based measures of inflation compensation remain low; survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations are little changed, on balance.

Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee expects that, with further gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace in the medium term and labor market conditions will remain strong. Inflation on a 12-month basis is expected to run near the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective over the medium term. Risks to the economic outlook appear roughly balanced.

In view of realized and expected labor market conditions and inflation, the Committee decided to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 percent. The stance of monetary policy remains accommodative, thereby supporting strong labor market conditions and a sustained return to 2 percent inflation.

In determining the timing and size of future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee will assess realized and expected economic conditions relative to its objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation. This assessment will take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and international developments. The Committee will carefully monitor actual and expected inflation developments relative to its symmetric inflation goal. The Committee expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant further gradual increases in the federal funds rate; the federal funds rate is likely to remain, for some time, below levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run. However, the actual path of the federal funds rate will depend on the economic outlook as informed by incoming data.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were Jerome H. Powell, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Thomas I. Barkin; Raphael W. Bostic; Lael Brainard; Loretta J. Mester; Randal K. Quarles; and John C. Williams.

Myles Udland is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @MylesUdland

Read more from Myles here: