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Fed Sets Stage for Rate Hikes in 2015

Wall Street Journal (12/17/14) Jon Hilsenrath

The U.S. Federal Reserve said yesterday it hopes to start normalizing the “stance of monetary policy,” the most direct reference it has made about increasing interest rates in years. Simultaneously, the Fed revealed its skittishness about signaling a historic move away from the easy-money policies that have been in place since the global financial crisis. Rates have been held near zero since December 2008 and since then the Fed has repeatedly said they would stay low amid low inflation and high levels of unemployment. Yesterday the Fed said it would be “patient” before increasing rates, adding that the overall outlook hasn’t much changed from earlier assurances that rates would stay low for a “considerable time.”

Still, 15 of 17 policy makers said they likely will increase short-term interest rates in 2015. The job market has improved, and the Fed expects faster economic growth over the next two years. Growth of between 2.6% and 3.0% is expected for 2015, and the unemployment rate is forecast to decline to 5.2% or 5.3%, putting the jobless rate in the “full employment” zone.