Fed Extends Low Interest Rates Through 2014

The Federal Reserve announced today that it expects to keep interest rates near zero percent at least through late 2014. The rate has remained at this record low since the financial crisis took hold in 2008.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve's monetary policy-making group, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), said it is keeping the target range for the federal funds rate at zero to 1/4 percent and said that economic conditions "are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through late 2014."

The committee said the economy has been "expanding moderately, notwithstanding some slowing in global growth."

"While indicators point to some further improvement in overall labor market conditions, the unemployment rate remains elevated," the committee said in its statement.

Household spending has improved, but growth in business fixed investment has slowed, and the housing sector remains depressed, the committee said.

Guy LeBas, chief fixed income strategist with Janney Capital Markets, said the extension of low interest rates were anticipated. Though the effects may be minimal, he said car loan rates will likely decline and mortgage rates will decline a bit further than their already record low levels.

"That's such a modest stimulus to the consumer wallet," he said. "Mortgage rates have fallen so much since 2006. The majority of rate stimulus has already taken place."

The weekly average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) edged down slightly to 3.88 percent to a new all-time record low marking the seventh consecutive week below 4 percent, Fannie Mae said on Jan. 19.  Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.74 percent. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.17 percent up from the previous week when it averaged 3.16 percent.  A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.05 percent.

The committee said inflation has been "subdued in recent months, and longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable."

"It's dovish in the sense that it's designed to boost economic growth without concern of inflation," LeBas said, describing the committee's announcement. "I think it reinforces the Fed's philosophy of providing economic support at any cost."

The committee finished its two- day meeting on Wednesday, the first meeting of the year. The FOMC, which holds eight regularly scheduled meetings a year, buys and sells securities as its "open market" operations to set monetary policy.

The FOMC consists of twelve members: the seven members of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and four of the remaining eleven Reserve Bank presidents, who serve one-year terms on a rotating basis.