Fed keeps interest rates near zero
The US Federal Reserve on Wednesday kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at the record-low level of near zero, as the country grapples with slowing economic recovery amid surging COVID-19 cases.
After concluding its first policy meeting of 2021, the Fed decided to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 0-0.25%.
"The path of the economy continues to depend significantly on the course of the virus," Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said at a virtual press conference Wednesday afternoon.
The Fed chief noted that following a sharp rebound in economic activity last summer, the pace of recovery has "moderated" in recent months, with weakness concentrated in sectors most adversely affected by the resurgence of the virus and greater social distancing.
Despite the challenges, Powell said several developments point to improved outlook for later this year.
"Sufficiently widespread vaccinations would enable us to put the pandemic behind us and return to more normal economic activities," he said. "In the meantime, continued observance of social distancing and wearing masks will help us reach the goal as soon as possible."