WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve on Wednesday ended its monthly bond purchase program and signaled confidence the U.S. economic recovery would remain on track despite signs of a slowdown in many parts of the global economy.
“The Committee continues to see sufficient underlying strength in the broader economy to support ongoing progress toward maximum employment in a context of price stability,” the central bank’s policy committee said in a statement following a two-day meeting.
The statement largely dismissed recent financial market volatility, dimming growth in Europe and a weak inflation outlook as headwinds that would do little to undercut progress toward the Fed’s unemployment and inflation goals.
The Fed pointed to strengthening labor markets, saying that slack in labor markets was “gradually diminishing.”
It retained its basic language regarding interest rates from recent statements, saying that rates would remain low for a “considerable time” following the end of the bond purchases this month.
The timing and pace of rate hikes would depend on incoming economic data, the Fed said, new language that apparently earned the support of Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser and Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, who dissented at the previous meeting.
On inflation, the Fed acknowledged that lower energy prices and other forces were holding inflation down, but that overall the economy should progress toward the central bank’s 2 percent target.
“The Committee judges that the likelihood of inflation running persistently below 2 percent has diminished somewhat since early this year,” the statement said.
Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota was the only dissent on the grounds that a downturn in inflation expectations meant the Fed should commit to keeping interest rates lower for longer.
The decision to shutter the bond-buying program was almost foregone. The monthly purchases had been steadily cut from $85 billion to $15 billion as part of the Fed’s gradual turn away from policies launched to fight the 2007-2009 recession and breathe more life into a tepid recovery.
The Fed will continue reinvesting the proceeds of securities that mature each month, meaning its more than $4 trillion balance sheet will remain intact for the time being.
Reporting by Howard Schneider and Michael Flaherty; Editing by Paul Simao