Federal Reserve holds rates steady. Here's the financial impact.

Federal Reserve officials said they are leaving their benchmark rate untouched, a decision expected by economists and Wall Street after inflation ticked upward during the first three months of 2024. 

The Fed on Wednesday said it is keeping the federal funds rate in a range of 5.25% to 5.5%, the same level it has held since the central bank’s July 2023 meeting, which is its highest level in more than 20 years. 

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has repeatedly said the central bank prefers to keep rates high until inflation retreats to about 2% on an annual basis, rather than risking cutting too early and fueling another round of price spikes. Despite the Fed’s flurry of interest rate hikes, inflation remains stubbornly high, with March prices rising 3.5% from a year earlier, fueled by higher housing and gasoline prices. 

“The Fed has been saying that this could take some time and people shouldn’t expect rates to plummet down to zero anytime soon,” noted Jacob Channel, senior economist at LendingTree. Nevertheless, he added, “There is a good chance that we’ll get cuts sometime later in the year.”

Wall Street traders now envision just a single rate cut this year to the Fed’s benchmark rate. That compares with their expectations at year start that the Fed could cut rates as much as six times in 2024. 

—With reporting by the Associated Press. This is a breaking story and will be updated. 

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