Economy

Fed holds USA rates steady, maintains gradual hike option

Fed holds USA rates steady, maintains gradual hike option

The Fed "appears to be firmly on a policy normalization track and is not reacting to every piece of high frequency economic data", Levy said.

In its statement, it mentioned that the decline in growth during the first quarter is likely to be transitory and economic activity is expected to expand at a moderate pace.

"They went out of their way to emphasize this is not something they see persisting and pretty much says to me that their two rate hikes are still on the table for the balance of the year", said Heidi Learner, chief economist at Savills Studley.

However, the Fed on Wednesday didn't signal any change to its balance sheet policy. They may start unwinding by the end of 2017, though that hinges on economic conditions. While the Fed didn't foreshadow a June hike in its policy statement released Wednesday, it did express confidence in the underlying strength of the economy and saw some disappointing recent economic results as only "transitory".

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Economists have largely attributed the weak first-quarter GDP reading to recurring issues with the calculation of growth during the January-March period and linked the pullback in hiring to weather. A core measure that strips out food and fuel was 1.6 per cent on an annual basis, based on Commerce Department data, and headline inflation stood at 1.8 per cent.

A television screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange reflects the Federal Reserve's decision Wednesday to hold rates steady.

Meanwhile, on the jobs and inflation front, the Federal Reserve said that the labour market has continued to strengthen, as job gains were "solid" in recent months, while inflation continued to run somewhat below 2%.

The Fed's beige book survey of the economy prepared in advance of this week's meeting noted reports across the country of firms that had to provide bonuses, and increase wages and benefits, while still struggling to fill openings, even for low-skilled work.

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If the number of new jobs hits for the forecast 170,000 plus then a rate increase can be expected in six weeks time, at the next Fed meeting on June 13 and 14.

Investors increased the likelihood of a move next month to around 65 per cent, according to pricing in federal funds futures contracts, compared to 60 per cent before the FOMC decision was announced.

Investors believe the Federal Reserve is on track to raise United States interest rates in June, after keeping them on hold at between 0.75% and 1% in May.

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