Fed Leaves Interest Rates Unchanged as Economy Begins to Heal

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The Federal Reserve said the economy had “strengthened” but opted to continue providing support while playing down a rise in inflation.

Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, said on Wednesday that the nation would need to show greater progress toward substantial recovery before policies designed to bolster the economy would be lifted.Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, made it clear on Wednesday that his central bank wants to see further healing in the American economy before officials will consider pulling back their support by slowing government-backed bond purchases and lifting interest rates.

Mr. Powell spoke at a news conference after the Fed announced that it would leave rates near zero and continue buying bonds at a steady clip, as expected. He painted a picture of an economy bouncing back — helped by vaccines, government spending and the central bank’s own efforts.

The Fed’s post-meeting statement also portrayed a sunnier image of the American economy, which is climbing back from a sudden and severe recession caused by state and local lockdowns meant to contain the coronavirus.

“Amid progress on vaccinations and strong policy support, indicators of economic activity and employment have strengthened,” the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee said in its release. “The ongoing public health crisis continues to weigh on the economy, and risks to the economic outlook remain.”

Yet Fed officials signaled that they were looking for more progress toward their goals of full employment and stable inflation before reconsidering their cheap-money stance. Officials made it clear that they see a recent increase in inflation, which is expected to intensify in the months to come, as likely to be short-lived rather than worrying.

And Mr. Powell was careful to avoid sounding as though he and his colleagues knew precisely what the future held. He pointed out, repeatedly, that reopening America’s giant economy from pandemic-era shutdowns was an uncharted project.

“It’s going to be a different economy,” Mr. Powell said at one point, noting that some jobs may have disappeared as employers automated. At another, he said that when it came to inflation, “we’re making our way through an