WASHINGTON – The Federal Reserve hiked interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade on Wednesday, signaling faith that the U.S. economy had largely overcome the wounds of the 2007-2009 financial crisis.
The U.S. central bank’s policy-setting committee raised the range of its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point to between 0.25 percent and 0.50 percent, ending a lengthy debate about whether the economy was strong enough to withstand higher borrowing costs.
“The Committee judges that there has been considerable improvement in labor market conditions this year, and it is reasonably confident that inflation will rise over the medium term to its 2 percent objective,” the Fed said in its policy statement, which was adopted unanimously.
The Fed made clear that the rate hike was a tentative beginning to a “gradual” tightening cycle, and that in deciding its next move it would put a premium on monitoring inflation, which remains mired below target.
“In light of the current shortfall of inflation from 2 percent, the Committee will carefully monitor actual and expected progress toward its inflation goal.
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