The Federal Reserve on Wednesday voted to end the last leg of its bond-buying stimulus program, cutting purchases of Treasurys and mortgage-back securities to zero from $15 billion starting on Nov. 1. The central bank also sounded more upbeat about the labor market and said it doesn't expect falling energy prices to hold inflation down in the long run. For the first time, the Fed explicitly said it could raise interest rates sooner than markets expect if the economy grows faster than the bank projects. Slower growth, on the other hand, could push back the timing of the first rate hike since 2006. Since late 2012, the Fed has bought $1.6 trillion in securities under "QE3" in an effort to push U.S. interest rates lower and prop up the economy. The bank's balance sheet is now at a historic high of $4.5 trillion, nearly six times higher than when it first started buying bonds in 2008. The key fed funds short-term interest rate has been at zero since then. The Fed vote was nine to one, with Narayana Kocherlakota dissenting.
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