The Federal Reserve said Thursday said it would hold U.S. interest rates at their current level, close to zero, and added qualitative criteria to govern how long it will keep up its $120-a-month bond-buying program.

“Economic activity and employment have continued to recover but remain well below their levels at the beginning of the year,” according to a statement released at the conclusion of this week’s two-day, closed-door meeting of the central bank’s monetary-policy committee, known as the Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC.

  • Key target rate for federal funds to stay in a range of 0% to 0.25%
  • Fed plans to keep buying $80 billion of U.S. Treasury bonds and $40 billion of agency mortgage-backed securities every month "until substantial further progress has been made toward the committee's maximum employment and price stability goals."
  • That's a change in wording from the statement issued after the Fed's previous meeting in November, where it said the bond purchases would continue "to sustain smooth market functioning and help foster accommodative financial conditions."
  • Summary of economic projections released along with the statement shows FOMC members have turned slightly more optimistic about the economy since September.
  • On average, they expect GDP to contract 2.4% in 2020, versus a September projection for 3.7% decline. The average expectation for growth in 2021 is 4.2%, versus a 4% projection in September.
  • Prices for personal consumption expenditures, the Fed's preferred inflation measure, could rise 1.8% next year, compared with a September projection of 1.7%.

Traders in digital-asset markets have tracked the Fed’s decisions this year because many analysts say the U.S. central bank’s trillions of dollars of money printing could bolster use of bitcoin among institutional investors as an an inflation hedge.

Read More: New Federal Reserve ‘Qualitative’ Approach Could Push Further Into Experimental Realm

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