Federal Reserve holds benchmark rates near zero

Sep 17, 2015 2:16 PM by News Staff

The Federal Reserve on Thursday held benchmark rates at near zero, where they've been since the height of the financial crisis in 2009.

After concluding a two-day meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said in a policy statement that it would leave rates unchanged. At 2:30 p.m., Fed Chair Janet Yellen will hold a news conference to discuss the central bank's thinking and to present the FOMC's economic outlook.

"Recent global economic and financial developments may restrain economic activity somewhat and are likely to put further downward pressure on inflation in the near term," the Fed said in its statement.

Low rates have helped the economy recover and supported a six-year bull market for equities. But there are worries that keeping rates ultra-low too long could stoke inflation and give rise to asset bubbles such as the one that occurred in home prices that paved the way to the last recession.

Wall Street wavered in the wake of the Fed decision, with the Dow industrials (DJI) at 2:10 p.m. Eastern up 26 points at 16,766. The S&P 500 (SPX) added 6 to 2,001.

Economic reports on Thursday had new home construction declining in August, while other data showed first-time claims for jobless benefits last week at a two-month low, with the labor market continuing to be a bright spot.

The decision involving rates affects savers, or the returns people get on their bank deposits, along with rates on credit cards, mortgages, small business loans and student debt. But in the short term consumers are unlikely to feel the impact of what is expected to be slow increase in rates.

"You may not be able to lease a car anymore for zero percent, or see a little bump in your credit cards, but I don't think it'll matter that much," Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital, said of the eventual increase in rates.


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