Informing the public about the Federal Reserve
Why are interest rates being kept at a low level?
The financial crisis that began in 2007 was the most intense period of global financial strains since the Great Depression, and it led to a deep and prolonged global economic downturn. The Federal Reserve took extraordinary actions in response to the financial crisis to help stabilize the U.S. economy and financial system. These actions included reducing the level of short-term interest rates to near zero. In addition, to reduce longer-term interest rates and thus provide further support for the U.S. economy, the Federal Reserve has purchased large quantities of longer-term Treasury securities and longer-term securities issued or guaranteed by government-sponsored agencies such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Low interest rates help households and businesses finance new spending and help support the prices of many other assets, such as stocks and houses.
By law, the Federal Reserve conducts monetary policy to achieve maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates. The economy is recovering, but progress toward maximum employment has been slow and the unemployment rate remains elevated. At the same time, inflation has remained subdued, apart from temporary variations associated with fluctuations in prices of energy and other commodities. To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Federal Open Market Committee expects that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the economic recovery strengthens. In its December 2012 statement, the Committee indicated that it currently anticipates that a target range for the federal funds rate of 0 to 1/4 percent will be appropriate at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than half a percentage point above the Committee's 2 percent longer-run goal, and longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored.