Federal Reserve set to signal no rate hikes anytime soon

WASHINGTON (AP) — Patience. A focus on incoming economic data. And no interest rate hikes likely soon. The message the Federal Reserve is poised to send when its latest policy meeting ends this week is a soothing one. It reflects an abrupt shift in tone since the start of the year in the face of a slowdown in the United States and abroad, persistently tame inflation and a nervous stock market. The shift toward a more hands-off Fed has pleased investors and encouraged the view that the central bank is done raising rates for now and might even act this year to support rather than restrain the economy. In a statement today, in updated economic forecasts and in a news conference by Chairman Jerome Powell, the Fed will likely note that while the economy is on firm footing, it faces risks from slowing growth and trade conflicts. Against that backdrop, the thinking goes, it would be unwise to keep raising rates, as the Fed did four times in 2018. The Fed is instead set this week to keep its key short-term rate in a range of 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent. And most analysts think the policymakers will scale back their projection of rate hikes this year from two to one or perhaps even none. There is also anticipation that the Fed will specify when this year it expects to stop shrinking its huge portfolio of bonds, part of its balance sheet. Doing so would help keep a lid […]

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