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Fed chair Jerome Powell ahead of a congressional hearing in December. (Photo via Getty Images)

Interest rates will stay near zero for the foreseeable future, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said on Thursday.

Why it matters: It staves off concerns that the central bank is eyeing pulling back on its easy money policy if the economy recovers faster than anticipated.

What he's saying: "When the time comes to raise interest rates, we will certainly do that. That time by the way is no time soon," he said during an event with Princeton University.

Powell also said "now is not the time" to talk about any exit from the $120 billion in securities that Fed has been buying every month.

The big picture: Powell weighed in on the prospect of higher inflation — some investors are bracing for it — which would force the Fed to consider hiking rates to counteract rising prices.

  • "As the pandemic recedes and we see potentially a strong wave of spending as people return to their normal lives and begin consuming various services," that might cause upward pressure on prices, Powell said.
  • "But the real question is how large is that effect and will it be persistent," Powell said, noting that it's unlikely to be persistent.

Catch up quick: The Fed rolled out a new policy framework last summer that sought to make up for the fact that inflation for years has undershot its 2% target — but hasn't laid out specifics, like how long it would like to see inflation above that level.

  • "We haven't tied ourselves — and won't — to a particular mathematical formula when we aim to achieve inflation moderately above 2% for some time," Powell said.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 26, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Central banks deepen their climate efforts

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Climate change is rising higher on the radar for central banks on both sides of the Atlantic.

Driving the news: The Federal Reserve formed a panel aimed at boosting the central bank's understanding of climate's implications for "financial institutions, infrastructure, and markets," officials said Monday.

Democrats fail to change Senate rules to pass voting rights bill

Senate Majority Leader during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats' attempt to change Senate rules to pass the voting rights bill failed Wednesday night, with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voting with Republicans.

The big picture: The failed effort came after Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights measure from coming to a final vote earlier Wednesday.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court rejects Trump's attempt to shield documents from Jan. 6 committee

Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday night a bid by former President Trump to block the release of documents and records from his administration to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Trump asked the Supreme Court to step in and block the release of the documents last month after a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously denied his attempt to prevent the committee from obtaining the materials.