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Feb chair Jerome Powell. Photo: Susan Walsh/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve kept rates unchanged at its latest policy meeting, but a shift in sentiment emerged as to how soon it should begin raising rates.

Why it matters: The Fed's rock-bottom rates policy and monthly asset purchases helped the U.S. markets avoid a meltdown during the COVID-19 crisis last year. But as the economy recovers, a chorus is growing for the Fed to at least consider a timeline for pulling back its support before things get overheated.

What he's saying: "You can think of this meeting as the 'talking about talking about' [tapering] meeting if you like," Fed chair Jerome Powell said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, while reiterating the Fed will continue its current monthly purchases for now.

Context: The Fed has stressed over recent meetings that it's looking for "substantial further progress" in the economy — without defining what that is —before it will begin tapering its monthly asset purchases.

What happened: During the press conference, Powell acknowledged that inflation has been higher than expected, but noted that it's largely in pandemic-impacted industries and because of supply chain issues likely to be temporary.

  • The Fed moved its PCE inflation forecast for the year by a percentage point, to 3.4%. But it expects inflation to come back down to 2.1% in 2022 and 2.2% in 2023 — somewhat in line with its long-term target of 2%.
  • "We do tend to look at the longer-term inflation expectations because that's really what matters for inflation. The shorter-term ones tend to move around," Powell said.

The big picture: "The view has shifted on the timing of rate hikes with a majority of members expecting anywhere from one to six rate hikes by the end of 2023," Bankrate chief financial analyst Greg McBride wrote in a note Wednesday afternoon. "Projections of rate hikes starting in 2022 also increased by three members since the March meeting.”

State of play: Stock indexes were slightly down ahead of the release of the Fed's statement Wednesday morning, and they edged down further afterward. The S&P 500 is down about 0.54% on the day.

  • The 10-year Treasury yield gained to 1.57% Wednesday, from the open of 1.49%.

The bottom line: Many in the market wanted to see the Fed react to the recent inflation figures, and to at least talk about talking about tapering. That’s happened.

Go deeper

Powell goes on record about Fed trading uproar

Fed chair Jerome Powell testifies at a hearing last year. Photo: Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images

Most of the questions Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell fielded at Wednesday's press conference related to the coming taper. A runner-up: the trading controversy that’s put a spotlight on some Fed officials, including Powell himself.

Catch up quick: Recent financial disclosures showed two regional Fed officials owned — and in one case, actively traded — assets sensitive to the drastically expanded monetary policy they helped shape.

Crypto leads to massive surge in online scams

Expand chart
Reproduced from FTC; Chart: Axios Visuals

Bogus cryptocurrency investments led to an unprecedented increase in online scams last year, according to new data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Why it matters: Cryptocurrency is an easy target because while it's surging in popularity, there's still a lot of confusion about how it works.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

New clues emerge on long COVID

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The presence of certain autoantibodies or high amounts of coronavirus RNA in the blood could be indicators a patient has a higher chance of developing long COVID, according to a new study in the journal Cell.

  • Other factors include a person having Type 2 diabetes or the reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus.

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