Fed maintains easy-money course on slow growth

Fed maintains easy-money course on slow growth

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Fed maintains easy-money course on slow growth

The US Federal Reserve building in Washington is seen in this file photo. AFP photo

The Federal Reserve held its easy-money policies in place on May 1 in the face of a moderately growing economy facing headwinds from the government’s severe “sequester” spending cuts.

The policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee, as widely expected, kept the central bank’s key interest rate at zero to 0.25 percent and its $85 billion a month bond-buying program in place in a bid to support economic growth.

“Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in March suggests that economic activity has been expanding at a moderate pace... but fiscal policy is restraining economic growth,” the policy makers said in a statement at the conclusion of a two-day meeting. That language was much stronger than the March FOMC statement, which simply noted that fiscal policy had become “somewhat more restrictive.” The FOMC said it continued to see downside risks to the economic outlook and was prepared to even step up the bond purchases, known as quantitative easing, if conditions worsened.

“The Committee is prepared to increase or reduce the pace of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation as the outlook for the labor market or inflation changes,” the statement said.

Labor market showed “some improvement” in recent months, but the unemployment rate remains “elevated,” at 7.6 percent well above the Fed’s preferred 6.5 percent benchmark for winding down the accommodative policy.

The Fed policy makers reiterated that inflation was not a significant concern.