WASHINGTON (1/28/15, UPDATED 2:25 p.m. ET)--While economists still widely expect the Federal Reserve to hike short-term interest rates this summer, the Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) policy statement, released today, gave few hints as to when that first rate hike will actually happen.
Similar to December's policy statement, the FOMC said monetary policy accommodation, or maintaining the federal funds rate at its near-zero level, could be appropriate for "some time" even after employment and inflation reach their mandate-consistent levels.
Further, the committee reiterated, when making the decision to raise interest rates it would take a patient approach.
"When the committee decides to begin to remove policy accommodation, it will take a balanced approach consistent with its longer-run goals of maximum employment and inflation of 2%," the FOMC said in the statement.
That the language used by the FOMC closely resembled that of its previous statement could mean that the Fed's monetary policy-making body is waiting to see how inflation and the global economy respond to recent shaky periods.
The FOMC said that it expects inflation to decline further in the near term, but that it will rise gradually toward 2% over the medium term as the labor market continues to strengthen and the effects of lower energy prices begin to dissipate.
Still, recent improvements in the labor market, household spending and business fixed investment still may foreshadow a rate hike in mid-2015.
"If incoming information indicates faster progress toward the committee's employment and inflation objectives than the committee now expects, then increases in the target range for the federal funds rate are likely to occur sooner than currently anticipated," the statement said. "Conversely, if progress proves slower than expected, then increases in the target range are likely to occur later than currently anticipated."
The statement came at the conclusion of its most recent two-day policy meeting; the FOMC's first meeting of 2015.
The FOMC's next meeting is set for March 17-18.