In December, the Fed did so: It scrapped the calendar dates it had been using as targets for when the first short-term rate increase might occur. Instead, the Fed said it would link its actions to specific economic markers. It said it expects rates to stay low at least until unemployment drops below 6.5 percent as long as inflation remains tame.
Many economists don't expect unemployment to dip below 6.5 percent until late 2015. The Fed said it could pursue aggressive stimulus programs as long as its one- to two-year outlook for inflation doesn't top 2.5 percent. Inflation according to a measure used by the Fed is running at an annual rate of 1.7 percent.
That's why most economists think Bernanke will have no trouble gathering the votes needed to maintain the Fed's stimulative efforts.
The minutes of the December policy meeting showed that some officials felt it might be appropriate to scale back the Fed's bond purchases or end them outright before the end of 2013. Still, most analysts think the Fed will maintain the level of its bond purchases for the rest of this year, unless the unemployment rate falls much faster than expected.
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