WASHINGTON – The US Federal Reserve left benchmark overnight funds interest rate unchanged between 1.25 percent and 1.5 percent on Wednesday in the last meeting to be presided over by Chairperson Janet Yellen before she turns over her post to Jerome Powell this weekend.
“The committee expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant further gradual increases in the federal funds rate,” the Federal Open Market Committee – which sets Fed policy – said in a statement on Wednesday.
After remaining below the target threshold of 2 percent for several years, inflation has begun to rise slightly in the US and it is predicted that 2018 will close with it around the target level.
The Fed has said that it will probably raise interest rates three times this year, depending on the health of the US economy, where unemployment stands at 4.1 percent, the lowest level in 18 years.
The Fed meeting was the last at which Yellen, who had led the US central bank for the past four years, will preside.
She will turn over the chairmanship to Powell, who was nominated by President Donald Trump and who is expected to maintain Yellen’s policies.
The next meeting of the Fed is scheduled for March 20-21, after which Powell will offer his first press conference as chairman.