Chairman Ben Bernanke said unemployment was too high and the economy was ”dissatisfying”
2 November 2011 Last updated at 19:01
The US Federal Reserve has slashed its forecast for US growth and upped its expectation for unemployment next year.
Despite this, the Fed voted to keep interest rates on hold and maintain its bond-buying programmes.
The decision was entirely what markets and economists expected.
Chairman Ben Bernanke said the Fed was also considering changes to its communications strategy. The Fed been criticised by Republican politicians and anti-Wall Street protesters.
The economy is expected to grow only 1.6%-1.7% this year, and 2.5%-2.9% next – about one percentage point lower than previous estimates. The jobless rate is expected to stay at 9.1% this year.
The Fed anticipates unemployment falling only to 8.5%-8.7% next year. It had previously predicted a fall to 7.8%.
The pessimistic forecasts contrast with a moderately upbeat assessment of the US economy released at the conclusion of its two-day meeting.
Economists took it as a sign that the committee felt no sense of urgency to take more action.
The Fed has maintained interest rates at a historic low range of 0%-0.25% since December 2008
The committee voted 9-1 in favour of its statement, an improvement from the 7-3 vote recorded in September.
The one dissenter, Charles Evans of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, voted against because he wanted the Fed to take further action to boost the economy.
That is in sharp contrast to September, when three members opposed the Fed’s new “Operation Twist” policy because they feared that inflation was too high.
The statement noted a pick-up in spending by consumers, but also alluded to downside risks, including “strains in global financial markets”, without explicitly mentioning the eurozone debt crisis.
The Fed has kept its overnight interest rate within a historic low target range of 0%-0.25% since December 2008, and repeated its promise to continue doing so until mid-2013.
The central bank will also continue its Operation Twist policy of switching $400bn into longer term government debts.
The move is an extension of the Fed’s quantitative easing policy of creating money and using it buy debts of the federal government.
Operation Twist is intended to reduce longer-term interest rates, in order to encourage more borrowing and investment.
There has been speculation that the Fed may be preparing take further steps to stimulate the flagging US economy, in particular to reduce interest rates for mortgage borrowers.
Mr Bernanke told a press conference that buying more mortgage debts was a viable option for the Fed.
Another possibility is that the Fed may set itself a new policy target that would allow for a temporarily higher inflation rate, although Mr Bernanke played down the possibility of a radical change in its mandate.
However, most economists were not expecting any such steps until the Fed’s next meeting, in December.
‘Politics is politics’
Mr Bernanke said the committee had discussed changes in its communications strategy, but without elaborating.
The Fed first decided in March this year to hold press conference every three months.
However, many anti-Wall Street protesters have called for the abolition of the Fed.
The central bank’s easy monetary policy has also been heavily criticised by some Republican presidential candidates.
The Fed was sent a letter by Republican politicians calling on it to stop stimultive policies.
“Politics is politics,” said Mr Bernanke at his latest press conference. “We are going to make our decisions based on what is good for the economy, we are not going to take politics into account.”