1st LD: U.S. Fed keeps interest rates near zero, promises to stay there until labor market improves


WASHINGTON, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at the record-low level of near zero and promised to maintain this target range until labor market conditions have improved to reach maximum employment and inflation has picked up to its desirable level.

"Economic activity and employment have picked up in recent months but remain well below their levels at the beginning of the year," the Fed said in a statement after concluding a two-day policy meeting.

"Weaker demand and significantly lower oil prices are holding down consumer price inflation," the Fed said. "Overall financial conditions have improved in recent months, in part reflecting policy measures to support the economy and the flow of credit to U.S. households and businesses."

The central bank noted that the path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus.

"The ongoing public health crisis will continue to weigh on economic activity, employment, and inflation in the near term, and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term," the Fed said.

In light of these assessments, the Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed's policy setting body, decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 0.25 percent.

The committee expects it will be appropriate to maintain this target range until labor market conditions have reached levels consistent with the Committee's assessments of maximum employment and inflation has risen to 2 percent and is on track to moderately exceed 2 percent for some time, according to the statement.

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