Federal Reserve holds key US rate unchanged

The Federal Reserve kept its benchmark federal funds interest rate unchanged at near zero percent as expected Wednesday, providing no fresh hints on when a long-awaited rate rise might come.

Washington: The Federal Reserve kept its benchmark federal funds interest rate unchanged at near zero percent as expected Wednesday, providing no fresh hints on when a long-awaited rate rise might come.

The Federal Open Market Committee said the US economy has expanded "moderately" in recent months and the jobs market has strengthened, but noted continued "soft" business investment and exports.

It also said that inflation remained softer than monetary policy makers want to see, though noting that much of the weakness is related to the plunge in energy prices over the past year and to cheaper imports, thanks to the strong dollar.

But the FOMC`s brief policy statement, at the end of a two-day meeting, gave no fresh sign of their thinking on when they will embark on an expected series of rate increases.

The fed funds rate has been held at 0-0.25 percent since late 2008 to help bring the US economy back from deep recession, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen has said recently that she expects a rate hike will come by the end of the year.

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