US Central Bank Says American Economy ‘Expanding Moderately’

Posted March 13th, 2012 at 2:35 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. central bank says the country's economy is “expanding moderately” and is refraining from taking new measures to boost the fortunes of the world's largest economy.

After meeting Tuesday in Washington, a key panel of the Federal Reserve issued a cautiously favorable assessment of the U.S. economy, which is still recovering from the recession that was the country's worst downturn in seven decades.

It said the country's labor market has “improved further” and that the unemployment rate had “declined notably in recent months.” Nonetheless, it said the 8.3 percent jobless rate recorded in both January and February “remains elevated” by U.S. historical standards.

The central bank said that consumer spending, which drives 70 percent of the U.S. economy, and business investments have continued to advance. But it said the U.S. housing market, likely the weakest link of the country's economy, “remains depressed.” The Federal Reserve described inflation as “subdued,” saying that long-term inflationary pressures are stable, even as gasoline prices at service stations have risen markedly in recent weeks.

The central bank said it has no plans to change its announced intention to keep its benchmark interest rate at zero to one-quarter of one percent through late 2014.

The Federal Reserve issued its statement hours after a government report said U.S. retail sales made their biggest gain in five months in February as consumers bought more cars, clothes and appliances.

The Commerce Department report said overall retail sales rose 1.1 percent last month. Officials also said sales in the previous two months were higher than first estimated.

The increased sales follow several months of gains in the job market, with several hundred thousand new jobs being added to the labor force, boosting consumer confidence.

Retail sales rose even though gasoline prices jumped nearly five cents per liter, which reduced the amount of money consumers had for other purchases.