Fed Continues to Monitor Economic Data Ahead of Rate Hike

Amid weakening economies abroad, low inflation, measured wage growth and mixed domestic data, the Federal Open Market Committee reaffirmed Wednesday it will be “patient” in raising short-term interest rates.

In its newest policy statement, the rate language was identical to comments in its previous statement in December.

The committee also included an upgraded assessment of the economy, noting it has been “expanding at a solid pace.”  It had earlier determined "moderate" growth.

Many economists expect the central bank to begin raising interest rates in June. But growing concerns about the global economy and U.S. inflation remaining below the FOMC’s 2% target have prompted other forecasters to call for a later increase.

Earlier this week, Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS)  projected the committee would raise rates for the first time this decade in March 2016, two months later than it previously forecast.

The Fed continued to label persistently low oil prices and their effects on inflation as “transitory," adding it "expects inflation to rise gradually toward 2% over the medium term as the labor market improves further" and energy prices rise.

As the Fed’s policy-making body convened its first meeting of the year, four bank presidents rotated into its voting membership - Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker and San Francisco President John Williams.

All four voted for the policy statement, along with the other six members of the committee.