WASHINGTON — Looking past soft December data, the Federal Reserve on Wednesday announced it will further taper back its controversial bond-purchasing program designed to stimulate economic activity.
"In light of the cumulative progress ... the Committee decided to make a further measured reduction in the pace of its asset purchases," said a statement from the Federal Open Market Committee.
Starting in February, the Fed will trim back another $10 billion in monthly purchases of government and mortgage bonds, on top of the $10 billion taper that began this month. It means the Fed will continue purchasing $65 billion a month in bonds, but committee members expect to keep trimming that figure back as the economy improves.
The purchases are "not on a pre-set course," the statement said, signaling that if the economy were to slow sharply again the taper could be paused or even reversed.
Analysts were divided on what action the Fed would take because December jobs numbers came in surprisingly weak and the financial markets in developing nations have started 2014 in turmoil. The Fed apparently viewed those developments as transient.
"Any expectations that recent disappointing economic data or the turmoil in emerging markets would lead to a pause in the Fed's tapering plans were shown to be incorrect
The statement from the rate-setting FOMC came at the close a two-day meeting which was the last expected to be chaired by Chairman Ben S. Bernanke. His term ends Friday and he will be succeeded by Vice Chair Janet Yellen. She'll become the first woman to head the Fed and will arguably become the most powerful woman banker in history.