The Federal Reserve is keeping a key interest rate unchanged but sending a strong signal that it will likely boost rates before the end of the year, the AP reports. The Fed said in a statement Wednesday that the US job market has continued to strengthen and economic activity has picked up. It characterized the near-term risks to the economic outlook as "roughly balanced." It was the first time it has used that wording since last December, when it last raised rates. Most analysts have said they think the Fed will next raise rates in December. For the first time in nearly two years, there were three dissents to the Fed's statement Wednesday.
Until recently, many Fed watchers had thought a rate hike was likely this week. They believed that the Fed, starting with a late-August speech by Chair Janet Yellen in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, was preparing investors for an imminent increase. Yellen suggested then that given the job market's solid gains and the Fed's outlook for the economy and inflation, "the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened in recent months." Other Fed officials, including Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, made similar observations, seemingly part of a collective signal that a September rate hike was probable if not definite. Sentiment shifted, though, after Lael Brainard, a Fed board member and Yellen ally, laid out the case for delaying a resumption of rate increases for now. Click for more. (Read more interest rate stories.)