US Federal Reserve keeps interest rates at 23-year high

Washington — The U.S. Federal Reserve held interest rates steady for a sixth straight meeting on Wednesday, keeping the level at a 23-year high to fight stubborn price increases. 

At the end of a two-day meeting, central bank policymakers decided unanimously that the Fed would keep the benchmark lending rate unchanged at 5.25-5.50 percent, citing a “lack of further progress” toward its 2 percent inflation target. 

“The economic outlook is uncertain, and the Committee remains highly attentive to inflation risks,” said the Fed in a statement. 

For months, the U.S. central bank has maintained interest rates at an elevated level to cool demand and rein in price increases — with a slowdown in inflation last year fueling optimism that the first cuts were on the horizon. 

But price increases have accelerated, throwing cold water on hopes of a summer rate cut. 

The Fed also announced on Wednesday that, starting in June, it would slow the pace of decline of its securities holdings, by “reducing the monthly redemption cap on Treasury securities from $60 billion to $25 billion.” 

As hope dwindles for rate reductions in the first half of the year, the Fed faces a growing possibility that eventual cuts will coincide with the run-up to November’s presidential election. 

The timeline may prove uncomfortable given that the Fed, as the independent U.S. central bank, seeks to avoid any appearance of politicization. 

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