Fed expected to maintain bond buying
The Federal Reserve is expected to keep monetary policy on a steady path when it concludes a two-day meeting today, though behind the scenes intensive debate continues over when the controversial bond-buying program should be curtailed.
The policy statement issued by the US central bank at the end of the meeting will likely be only slightly rephrased from its meeting in December to reflect minor changes in the economic outlook, notably reduced risks from financial turmoil in Europe.
Otherwise, economists say the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will maintain asset buying at $85 billion a month and retain the commitment to hold interest rates near zero per cent until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5 per cent, provided inflation does not threaten to breach 2.5 per cent.
The Fed has taken unprecedented steps to try to spark a stronger economic recovery and drive down unemployment. It has kept overnight interest rates near zero since late 2008 and has launched three rounds of bond purchases, known as quantitative easing, to drive other borrowing costs down.
Recent data has been consistent with a gradual improvement in the economy, although the government's monthly labor market report, to be released on Friday, is expected to show the jobless rate remained stuck at 7.8 per cent in January.
"The FOMC is expected to tweak the description of the state of the economy but announce no new policy measures," Morgan Stanley economist David Greenlaw wrote in a note to clients. The Fed statement is expected this evening.