WASHINGTON – The Federal Reserve decided on Wednesday to leave interest rates unchanged at between 1.5-1.75 percent after undertaking consecutive rate reductions at each of its three earlier meetings this year, emphasizing what it called the good health of the US economy.
The decision was made unanimously by the Fed’s Open Market Committee and had been anticipated by most analysts in advance of the central bank’s meeting.
The FOMC members said at the close of its two-day meeting that “the current stance of monetary policy is appropriate to support sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective.”
The FOMC also said that the economy continues to grow moderately, pushed by strong consumer spending, although it added that business investment and exports show “weakness.”
The central bank also adjusted its macroeconomic projections, reducing its economic growth forecast for 2020 from 2.2 percent to 2 percent and stating that it expected unemployment to remain at 3.6 percent this year and end next year at 3.5 percent.
The Fed expects a slight rise in inflation, from 1.5 percent at yearend 2019 to 1.9 percent in 2020, although this will remain below the bank’s annual 2 percent target.
At a Washington press conference after the meeting and FOMC announcement, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said his preference would be to allow inflation to rise and maintain itself above the US central bank’s target before contemplating future interest rate hikes.
“In order to move rates up, I would want to see inflation that’s persistent and that’s significant,” Powell said.
“A significant move up in inflation that’s also persistent before raising rates to address inflation concerns: That’s my view,” he added.
The meeting came after repeated criticism of Fed policy by President Donald Trump, who has castigated the bank for acting too slowly in reducing the price of money and has said that interest rates should be put at around zero to stimulate economic growth.
The next Fed meeting, the first of 2020, will take place on Jan. 28-29.