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Watching the Fed

Observers are awaiting a statement from the Federal Reserve this afternoon, toward the end of its two-day meeting, that could shed light on when it will start raising interest rates.

Interest rates have been near zero since soon after the financial crisis. Since December, the Fed’s policy statements have used the word “patient” to describe its approach toward raising interest rates. Observers will be watching to see if that word will be missing, which would open the door to the Fed to increasing interest rates as early as June. Media reports this morning are suggesting the Fed will in fact take that step and stop using that word in its statements.

The Fed’s statement, expected at 2 p.m., comes amid dissonant economic signals: an improving labor market; inflation below the Fed’s 2 percent target; and various other indicators, like industrial production and retail sales, that point toward a soft patch.

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