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Fed officials hold target rate steady in 1st 2017 meeting

Federal Open Market Committee policymakers voted to hold the Federal Reserve's key rate at its current target range during their first meeting of 2017.

Officials on Feb. 1 closed their meeting and issued a policy statement saying they voted to keep the target range for the fed funds rate between 50 basis points and 75 basis points. Committee members said in their statement that they continue to expect economic conditions will call for "only gradual increases" of the benchmark rate as they work to normalize monetary policy.

The committee said in the statement that "economic activity has continued to expand at a moderate pace" since its last meeting and that the labor market had continued to strengthen.

"Job gains remained solid and the unemployment rate stayed near its recent low," central bank officials said in their statement, adding that risks to their economic outlook appear "roughly balanced." Officials noted in the statement that inflation had risen in recent quarters, though it remains below the long-run 2% target set by policymakers.

Committee members also said the Fed would continue to reinvest the principal payments of its asset holdings.

Policymakers voted at their December meeting to lift the target range for the fed funds rate by 25 basis points, but markets had widely expected that the Fed would keep rates at their current level to open the year.