Federal Reserve leaves key policy rate unchanged

Increased inflation concerns loom ahead of Fed's committee meeting

FOMC announcement: Fed keeps interest rates steady

On Thursday, the Federal Reserve surprised no one with a decision to leave interest rates unchanged. The next Fed rate hike is expected in December.

The Federal Open Market Committee is widely expected to keep the benchmark target for rates unchanged in a 2 per cent to 2.25 per cent range at the conclusion of its two-day meeting on Thursday.

Despite a US trade war with key nations, weaker corporate investment and a sluggish housing market, the Fed is expressing confidence in the economy's resilience.

The central bank said the September update signaled that one more interest rate increase could occur this year. Central bankers have been cautiously taking steps in recent years to prevent the economy from overheating by slowly lifting short-term interest rates. With U.S. unemployment at a 48-year low of 3.7 per cent, officials may welcome some moderation in growth.

The Fed's policy statement did not explicitly take stock of recent volatility in US equity markets that led to a selloff in October, or address the possibility of a slowdown in global growth next year.

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Mr McMillian also acknowledged policymakers noted "business investment has moderated", which may be a drag on future growth. He also blasted his Fed chief, a former investment banker he nominated past year, as a "threat" to Republican control of Congress over a string of interest rate increases.

Data released in late October showed the United States economy grew at a 3.5 per cent annual rate in the third quarter, well above the roughly 2 per cent annual growth pace the Fed and many economists regard as the underlying trend. Its brief statement was almost identical to the one the Fed issued in September.

"Job gains have been strong, on average, in recent months, and the unemployment rate has declined".

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell played down the debate last month over whether the Fed would ultimately raise rates above a neutral setting, suggesting it is premature because rates are still boosting growth.

Still, the Fed's benchmark rate affects many consumer and business loans, including mortgages and credit cards, and when it raises it, borrowing can become more expensive for many.

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It's left investors wondering whether Fed officials might lower next year's growth forecast when they meet in December, especially given the recent tightening in financial conditions driven by the equity selloff over the past few months.

At the same time, the nervousness among stock investors reflects the reality that the Fed's steady march toward higher rates is removing a key factor that has underpinned the bull market in stocks: The richer returns that investors could achieve in stocks than in bonds or savings accounts.

United States policy makers are also contending with a strengthening dollar as interest rates rise and more recent market volatility just as other central banks take steps to end crisis-era stimulus programs. New Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida, in a speech October 25, tweaked that guidance to call for "some further gradual" hikes - adding the word "some".

While Trump has called the Fed's rate hikes his "biggest threat", Powell, who was Trump's hand-picked choice to lead the Fed, has avoided responding directly to the criticism.

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