The Federal Reserve is holding off on any new actions to help the economy because stronger growth is giving it time to gauge the impact of steps it’s already taken. The Associated Press reported that Fed policymakers made the announcement after a two-day meeting.
In a statement released Wednesday, the officials said the economy has strengthened and consumers have stepped up spending. But they said the economy continues to face significant downside risks, including strain in global financial markets — a reference to the crisis in Europe.
The Fed left open the possibility of taking further steps later to try to boost the sluggish economy. But it gave no hint as to what those moves might be.
The vote was 9-1. Charles Evans, the president of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, dissented. The statement said he wanted to take stronger action.
After their September meeting, the policymakers said they would shuffle the Fed’s investment portfolio to try to further reduce long-term interest rates. And in their previous meeting in August, they had said they plan to keep short-term rates near zero until at least mid-2013, unless the economy improved.
The Fed repeated the mid-2013 target in its statement Wednesday, and also said it was continuing its program to rebalance its portfolio to try to lower long-term rates.
The Fed has kept its key short-term interest rate at a record low since December 2008. This is the rate that banks charge on overnight loans. It serves as the benchmark for millions of business and consumer loans.
Later today, the Fed will also release its economic forecasts and Chairman Ben Bernanke will hold a news conference.
The debt crisis in Europe could force the Fed to lower its economic projections. The Greek prime minister’s surprise move to call a referendum on the country’s latest rescue plan sparked fears that the debt deal could unravel, that Greece could default on its debt and that the crisis could infect the global financial system.
Even if Europe dodges a financial catastrophe, many economists think it’s headed for a recession that would affect the U.S. and global economies. The Fed expressed such concerns after its August meeting.
Still, the Fed remains deeply divided over what, if any, action to take next. The actions taken in August and September were adopted on 7-3 votes, the most dissents in nearly 20 years.