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Federal Reserve Leaves Interest Rates Unchanged

A television screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange reflects the Federal Reserve's decision Wednesday to hold rates steady.

Federal Reserve officials left interest rates unchanged as they ended their policy-making meeting in Washington, D.C., today.

The Fed raised its benchmark rate by a quarter of a percentage point back in March, to a range of 0.75 percent to 1 percent, where it remains. In their post-meeting statement today, the central bank policymakers provided little guidance on when their next rate hike might come.

Fed officials acknowledged slower-than-expected growth during the first three months of the year but said it is "likely to be transitory."

They also said inflation is running close to their goal of 2 percent. That's the level of inflation they view as best for the U.S. economy. Both observations suggest the Fed remains on course to approve two more rate hikes this year. Many analysts expect the next increase will come at the Fed meeting in mid-June, but the statement provided no confirmation of that.

Despite the slow growth in the first quarter of this year, the Fed noted that "job gains were solid" and "the unemployment rate declined."

The Fed policymakers said they expect "economic conditions to evolve in a manner that will warrant" gradual increases in their official interest rate, the federal funds rate. The rate serves as a benchmark for business rates, such as the prime rate, and for consumer rates, such as those on adjustable rate mortgages.

Interest rates remain at historically low levels. The Fed held its benchmark rate near zero for seven years following the financial crisis to help boost the economy. They began raising rates in December 2015 and have boosted rates only two more times since then.

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