Date
17 October 2017
Fed chief Janet Yellen says the US central bank is ready to change the interest rate outlook if needed. Photo: Reuters
Fed chief Janet Yellen says the US central bank is ready to change the interest rate outlook if needed. Photo: Reuters

Fed keeps US rates steady, to unwind portfolio in October

The US Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged on Wednesday but signaled it still expects one more increase by the end of the year despite a recent bout of low inflation, Reuters reports.

The Fed, as expected, also said it would begin in October to reduce its approximately US$4.2 trillion in holdings of US Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities acquired in the years after the 2008 financial crisis.

New economic projections released after the Fed’s two-day policy meeting showed 11 of 16 officials see the “appropriate” level for the federal funds rate, the central bank’s benchmark interest rate, to be in a range between 1.25 percent and 1.50 percent by the end of 2017, or 0.25 percentage points above the current level.

US bond yields rose, pushing up the US dollar after the Fed’s decision, but U.S. benchmark stock indexes were little changed.

US benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields rose as far as 2.29 percent, the highest since Aug. 8., a move which helped push bank stock prices higher also.

“The Fed took another step on its path of beautiful normalization, announcing that the gradual balance sheet reduction will start next month and limiting revisions to both projections and policy guidance,” said Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser At Allianz in California.

In its policy statement, the Fed cited low unemployment, growth in business investment, and an economic expansion that has been moderate but durable this year as justifying it’s decision. It added that the near-term risks to the economic outlook remained “roughly balanced” but said it was “closely” watching inflation.

Fed chair Janet Yellen said in a press conference after the end of the meeting that the fall in inflation this year remained a mystery, adding that the central bank was ready to change the interest rate outlook if needed.

“What we need to figure out is whether the factors that have lowered inflation are likely to prove persistent,” she said. If they do, “it would require an alteration of monetary policy,” Yellen said.

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