Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell. Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts
Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell. Photo: Reuters / Joshua Roberts

The US Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged as expected after concluding a two-day meeting on Thursday, signaling that further rate increases are in the cards.

Stocks fell in New York in anticipation of the news while the dollar rose. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed down 0.25% and 0.53%, respectively, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average pared losses to end flat.

“Job gains have been strong, on average, in recent months, and the unemployment rate has declined. Household spending has continued to grow strongly, while growth of business fixed investment has moderated from its rapid pace earlier in the year,” read a statement published after the meeting.

The Federal Open Market Committee “expects that further gradual increases in the target range for the federal funds rate will be consistent with sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the committee’s symmetric 2% objective over the medium term. Risks to the economic outlook appear roughly balanced,” the statement continued, indicating that policymakers have not strayed from the path of raising rates again in December.

While President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the Federal Reserve’s current path of normalizing interest-rate policy, suggesting that it will weigh on equities markets and economic growth, some say that failure to raise rates in December could hurt stocks.

Former Wells Fargo chief executive Dick Kovacevich said during an interview on CNBC on Thursday that the Fed “has” to raise rates next month or markets will plunge due to the appearance the Fed has “caved to the president.”

“What he doesn’t understand is that the more he tries to influence the Fed by public statements, the less likely he is to influence the Fed, because the Fed has to remain and be perceived as being independent,” he said.

“Because we have a very strong economy, we have very low unemployment, we have reasonably low inflation … the Fed does not need to continue to be accommodative,” he added.

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