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The Fed Holds Rates Steady; Here's Who Is Clapping

A police officer keeps watch outside the Federal Reserve headquarters in Washington, D.C., where policymakers weighed whether to boost interest rates.

The Federal Reserve on Thursday chose to leave interest rates unchanged. For the central bank even a decision to do nothing is a big deal, creating all sorts of winners and losers.

Here's a short list of who most likely cheered the announcement and who probably turned thumbs down.

These people are applauding:

Car salesmen. Their dealerships can continue to offer customers zero percent APR promotional deals on auto loans. Even without any special loan inducements, they can still attract customers with regular auto loans around 4.3 percent.

Consumers with good credit. People who need to borrow money with credit cards will continue to enjoy rates set far lower than before the recession. For example, they might continue paying around 11 percent interest instead of the 15 percent they might have been paying a decade ago.

Homebuyers. The Fed doesn't set mortgage rates directly, but it influences the overall interest rate environment. And if it's keeping rates low, then mortgages are likely to continue to hold at low levels too.

Small-business owners. Small companies don't have as much cash as big ones, so they tend to be more dependent upon loans. Higher interest rates could crush businesses that have been scraping by, so they are glad to keep their loan payments as low as possible.

These people are booing:

Savers. People who save money are not happy. The payouts on bank certificates of deposit and savings accounts have been pitifully low for many years. Retirees — at least those hoping the Fed would start moving toward higher interest payouts for savers — have seen their wishes ignored again.

Pension fund managers. The fund managers who have to make sure your company's pension plan is safe need to get more income from low-risk investments. Having the Fed maintain its commitment to low rates just makes their investing jobs tougher.

Inflation worriers. Economists who think the Fed has pumped too much money into the financial system worry about inflation. They say that while we haven't seen much yet, higher prices are coming because the Fed won't be able to quickly mop up excess cash in the banking system.

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