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Fed chairman Jerome Powell. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As expected, the Federal Reserve said it would hold off on raising interest rates and signaled that the central bank will not raise interest rates any time this year.

Why it matters: The Fed has backed off its hawkish interest rate hike plans seen as recently as late last year, amid concerns that "growth of economic activity has slowed from its solid rate in the fourth quarter," officials said in the policy statement released on Wednesday.

  • In a separate release, the Fed said it would stop shrinking the multitrillion-dollar balance sheet it amassed during the financial crisis by the end of September. Fed chair Jerome Powell told reporters during a news conference that the final size of the balance sheet would be "a bit above" $3.5 trillion from a peak of $4.5 trillion.
  • Balance sheet shrinkage was widely blamed for the stock market volatility seen at the end of last year.

Details:

  • Fed officials also ratcheted down expectations for economic growth, saying GDP would come in at 2.1% this year versus the 2.9% projected at December's Fed meeting.
  • Their projections for unemployment this year were higher at 3.7% from the 3.5% they anticipated in December.

Between the lines: Powell maintains that the Fed is an apolitical institution and hasn't been swayed by the president's unprecedented criticism of the central bank. However, Trump did get everything he asked for: a stoppage on interest rate hikes and the end of the balance sheet runoff.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions previously imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds the first significant action by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
11 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.