The Federal Reserve on Wednesday stuck to its plan to keep stimulating the U.S. economy until the job market improves and repeated its vow to keep rates near zero until mid-2015.
In a policy statement after a two-day meeting, the central bank acknowledged hints of strength in the U.S. housing market, but reiterated a pledge to continue supporting growth even as the recovery picks up. It said it would continue purchasing $40 billion in mortgage-backed debt per month to push interest rates lower. * "Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in September suggests that economic activity has continued to expand at a moderate pace in recent months. Growth in employment has been slow, and the unemployment rate remains elevated," the Fed said in its statement. * "Household spending has advanced a bit more quickly, but growth in business fixed investment has slowed. The housing sector has shown some further signs of improvement, albeit from a depressed level. Inflation recently picked up somewhat, reflecting higher energy prices. Longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable."
TANWEER AKRAM, SENIOR ECONOMIST, ING MANAGEMENT, ATLANTA:
"The Fed's statement was very much in line with expectations. The assessment essentially remained the same while incorporating new information. At this moment there's no change in policy and the Committee said its policy of buying mortgage-backed debt would continue for the rest of the year. That could be extended, particularly if we continue to have muddle-through growth of about two percent and if the labor market remains feeble. If that continues, this open-ended program of expanding the balance sheet will continue.
"Though low rates are helpful and have benefited asset prices and the housing market, our view is that the potential gains from additional QE are quite limited. Business investment has slowed and that's because of a lack of demand.
"The crucial policy issue for the U.S. now is to address the fiscal cliff with both government expenditures continuing and also ensuring that the payroll tax holiday be extended as a way of supporting labor income growth and employment.
"The challenge for the Administration and Congress is really to ensure resilience in the labor market. That's the key issue."
DAVID ADER, HEAD OF GOVERNMENT BOND STRATEGY, CRT CAPITAL GROUP, STAMFORD, CONNECTICUT:
"Very little changed in wording except to nuance inflation having picked up due to energy prices, a tax in the Fed's view. Business investment definitely downgraded from 'appears to have slowed' to simply 'has slowed'. Other than that there were really no changes."
JOHN CANALLY, ECONOMIST, LPL FINANCIAL, BOSTON
"This is a status quo one with the U.S. Presidential election just a couple of weeks away. This sets up some chances of change in communication with the end of Operation Twist at the December meeting. They acknowledged some of the developments in the economy such as more consumer spending and improvement in the housing market.
"They just threw so much on us the last time. We are only six weeks away when they first announced QE3 and the extension of the low rate guidance. They still need time to gauge their impact. The markets are more concerned about earnings right now."
DAVID SLOAN, ECONOMIST, 4CAST LTD, NEW YORK:
"At first glance I don't see any surprises at all. It seems like we had a big meeting last time and this time they have maintained their tone. They have mentioned some improvement in consumer spending."
JIM AWAD, MANAGING DIRECTOR AT ZEPHYR MANAGEMENT IN NEW YORK:
"As expected, the Fed wants to stay out of the way of the election and be uninvolved in influencing it. This is what the market expected and it should have no lasting impact on the market."
JOSEPH TREVISANI, CHIEF MARKET STRATEGIST, WORLDWIDE MARKETS, WOODCLIFF LAKE, NEW JERSEY:
"No change in Fed policy was anticipated and none was delivered. The economy remains weak, unemployment is unacceptably high, MBS quantitative easing will continue and negative real interest rates on Fed Funds will enter a fourth year in the middle of December. No change for the currency, equities, commodity or credit markets from the Fed."
(Americas Economics and Markets Desk; +1-646 223-6300)