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Fed officials stick to low rates for the foreseeable future

November 19, 2014, 7:56 PM UTC
Fed Chair Janet Yellen Holds News Conference Following FOMC Meeting
Janet Yellen, chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, listens to a question during a news conference following a Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. The Federal Reserve maintained a commitment to keep interest rates near zero for a "considerable time" after asset purchases are completed, saying the economy is expanding at a moderate pace and inflation is below its goal. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Andrew Harrer — Bloomberg/Getty Images

Federal Reserve policy makers are more optimistic about the economy, but that doesn’t mean they will be raising rates any time soon.

The job market slump is “gradually diminishing,” and the Federal Open Markets Committee expects the U.S. economy to continue expanding at “a moderate pace,” according to minutes from their Oct. 28-29 meeting.

Fed Chairman Janet Yellen and the committee focused on the gains in the labor market when they announced the end of the third round of the stimulative bond-buying program, known as quantitative easing. The unemployment rate dropped to 5.8% in October, its lowest since July 2008.

They also noted that inflation lingering below their goal was no longer as much of a risk.

The Fed will continue to keep interest rates near zero for the foreseeable future. Any future rate increases would “depend on its assessment of actual and expected progress toward its objectives of maximum employment and 2% inflation.”

Consumer prices slowed to a 1.4% gain in September from a year earlier, based on the Fed’s preferred measure. Inflation has remained below the Fed’s stated target for 29 consecutive months.

While Fed officials are attentive to any future downward shift in inflation expectations, the larger concern is that the U.S. economy continues to post steady gains.

Any future increase to interest rates would be “data dependent.” Even if employment and inflation meet the Fed’s standards, the committee would still consider keeping interest rates low if underlying economic conditions remain weak.

The FOMC’s next meeting is Dec. 16-17.