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Fate of Fed Stimulus Turns Hazy

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The Federal Reserve is prepared to increase or reduce monetary stimulus as needed, the central bank said on Wednesday.

In other words: Central bankers may not know what to expect moving forward.

A raft of soft U.S. economic data since the Fed's March policy-making meeting shifted in the Tuesday and Wednesday meeting the tone of central bankers who had been open to scaling back purchases of mortgage-backed securities and longer-term Treasuries.

The Federal Open Market Committee left the target range for the federal funds rate at 0% to 0.25% and reiterated its commitment to purchase $85 billion in securities each month for an indefinite period.

The announcement said unemployment has remained elevated and Congress's fiscal policy is restraining economic growth.

Below is the Fed's entire statement, which it released on Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET.

    Release Date: May 1, 2013

    For immediate release

    Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in March suggests that economic activity has been expanding at a moderate pace. Labor market conditions have shown some improvement in recent months, on balance, but the unemployment rate remains elevated. Household spending and business fixed investment advanced, and the housing sector has strengthened further, but fiscal policy is restraining economic growth. Inflation has been running somewhat below the Committee's longer-run objective, apart from temporary variations that largely reflect fluctuations in energy prices. Longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.

    Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee expects that, with appropriate policy accommodation, economic growth will proceed at a moderate pace and the unemployment rate will gradually decline toward levels the Committee judges consistent with its dual mandate. The Committee continues to see downside risks to the economic outlook. The Committee also anticipates that inflation over the medium term likely will run at or below its 2 percent objective.

    To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee decided to continue purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month and longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $45 billion per month. The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. Taken together, these actions should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative.

    The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments in coming months. The Committee will continue its purchases of Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate, until the outlook for the labor market has improved substantially in a context of price stability. The Committee is prepared to increase or reduce the pace of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation as the outlook for the labor market or inflation changes. In determining the size, pace, and composition of its asset purchases, the Committee will continue to take appropriate account of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases as well as the extent of progress toward its economic objectives.