The Latest: Fed expects inflation will stay low through 2019

Federal Reserve forecasts that inflation will stay low through the end of this year

WASHINGTON -- The Latest on the Federal Reserve's monetary policy meeting (all times local):

2:05 p.m.

The Federal Reserve expects inflation to finish this year noticeably below its 2% target, a trend that could make it more likely policymakers will cut short-term interest rates in the coming months.

In its latest set of economic projections, Fed policymakers forecast that its preferred inflation gauge would increase just 1.5% by the end of 2019 compared with a year earlier, down from its March forecast of 1.8%. It sees core inflation, which excludes the volatile food and energy categories, finishing the year at 1.8%, down from 2% in March.

Fed policymakers also note in their statement that financial markets are expecting inflation to slow. That is typically a concern because inflation expectations can become self-fulfilling. If business executives, for example, expect inflation will be lower, they will likely limit their own price increases.

In April, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said that the weak inflation readings would be "transitory."

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2:00 p.m.

The Federal Reserve is leaving its key interest rate unchanged but signaling that it's prepared to start cutting rates if needed to protect the U.S. economy from trade conflicts and other threats.

The Fed left its benchmark rate — which influences many consumer and business loans — in a range of 2.25% to 2.5%, where it's been since December.

While not changing rates, Fed officials say that uncertainties "have increased" and for that reason the central bank was prepared to "act as appropriate to sustain the expansion."

That language echoes comments Fed Chairman Jerome Powell made two weeks ago that triggered a huge stock market rally as investors started believing rate cuts are on the way. As expected the Fed removed a pledge to be "patient" in changing rates.

A survey of the 17 Fed officials showed that nearly half now expect at least one rate cut this year, with seven projecting two cuts. At the March meeting, no officials had forecast a rate cut.

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11:15 a.m.

Stocks are little changed in morning trading on Wall Street Wednesday ahead of a highly anticipated Federal Reserve statement on interest rates.

The S&P 500 was unchanged, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 39 points, or 0.2%, to 26,505. The Nasdaq composite edged down less than 0.1%.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.09%. That's still well below the 2.21% yield on the three-month Treasury bill.

The Fed isn't expected to cut rates today, but it has already signaled that it is prepared to take that action in order to help stabilize the U.S. economy if trade disputes cut into growth. Investors are betting on at least one interest rate cut this year, possibly as early as July.

The Fed's statement comes a day after the head of the European Central Bank said it was ready to cut interest rates and provide additional economic stimulus if necessary.

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5:05 a.m.

Stock markets are subdued as investors look ahead to the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy meeting, where the central bank is expected to indicate it could cut interest rates in coming months.

Futures for the Dow and S&P 500 are down about 0.1% on Wednesday, as is Germany's DAX stock index. The dollar is stable against the yen, at 108.43 yen, and against the euro, at $1.1200.

The Fed isn't considered ready to announce that it's reducing rates for the first time in more than a decade. But when it ends its latest policy meeting Wednesday, the central bank is expected to signal an inclination to ease credit sometime within the next several months. What it won't likely do is indicate when that might happen.

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12:05 a.m.

The Federal Reserve seems poised to pivot from keeping interest rates steady to holding out the option of cutting rates if it were to decide that the economic expansion needs support.

The Fed isn't considered ready to announce that it's reducing rates for the first time in more than a decade. But when it ends its latest policy meeting Wednesday, the central bank is expected to signal an inclination to ease credit sometime within the next several months. What it won't likely do is indicate when that might happen.