The Federal Reserve maintains interest rates near zero.

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The Federal Reserve kept its benchmark lending rate near zero on Wednesday, warning that an increase could be on the way as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Federal Open Market Committee concluded its two-day meeting with a statement saying interest rates will remain at 0% to 0.25%, the same level since March 2020, the beginning of the economic downturn.

The statement said the status of the U.S. economy continues to depend on the course of COVID-19.

“With progress on vaccinations and strong policy support, indicators of economic activity and employment have continued to strengthen,” it read. “The sectors most adversely affected by the pandemic have improved in recent months, but the rise in COVID-19 cases has slowed their recovery.

“Inflation is elevated, largely reflecting transitory factors. Overall financial conditions remain accommodative, in part reflecting policy measures to support the economy and the flow of credit to U.S. households and businesses.”

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Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said that as long as the economy improves, the FOMC plans to start pulling back on some stimulus measures. It’s likely interest rates could see their first hike in 2022 since the start of the pandemic.

“While no decisions were made, participants general viewed that so long as the recovery remains on track, a gradual tapering process that concludes around the middle of next year is likely to be appropriate,” he said.

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