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 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. EST: 32,135,220 — Total deaths: 981,660 — Total recoveries: 22,149,441Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m EST: 6,975,980 — Total deaths: 202,738 — Total recoveries: 2,710,183 — Total tests: 98,481,026Map.
  3. Politics: House Democrats prepare new $2.4 trillion coronavirus relief package.
  4. Health: Cases are surging again in 22 states — New York will conduct its own review of coronavirus vaccine.
  5. Business: America is closing out its strongest quarter of economic growth.
  6. Technology: 2020 tech solutions may be sapping our resolve to beat the pandemic.
  7. Sports: Pac-12 will play this fall despite ongoing pandemic — Here's what college basketball will look like this season.
  8. Science: Global coronavirus vaccine initiative launches without U.S. or China — During COVID-19 shutdown, a common sparrow changed its song.
9 hours ago - Sports

Pac-12 will play football this fall, reversing course

A view of Levi's Stadium during the 2019 Pac-12 Championship football game. Photo: Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The Pac-12, which includes universities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Utah and Washington state, will play football starting Nov. 6, reversing its earlier decision to postpone the season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: The conference's about-face follows a similar move by the Big Ten last week and comes as President Trump has publicly pressured sports to resume despite the ongoing pandemic. The Pac-12 will play a seven-game conference football season, according to ESPN.

Dave Lawler, author of World
10 hours ago - World

Global coronavirus vaccine initiative launches without U.S. or China

Data: Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

A global initiative to ensure equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines now includes most of the world — but not the U.S., China or Russia.

Why it matters: Assuming one or more vaccines ultimately gain approval, there will be a period of months or even years in which supply lags far behind global demand. The COVAX initiative is an attempt to ensure doses go where they're most needed, rather than simply to countries that can produce or buy them at scale.

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