In its statement, the Fed said the rise in interest rates “could slow the pace of improvement in the economy and labor market” if they are sustained.
The Fed also lowered its economic growth forecasts for this year and next year slightly, likely reflecting its concerns about interest rates. It predicts that the economy will grow just 2 percent to 2.3 percent this year, down from its previous forecast in June of 2.3 percent to 2.6 percent growth.
Next year’s economic growth will be a barely healthy 3 percent, the Fed predicts.
The Fed’s policymakers expect the unemployment rate to fall to between 7.1 percent and 7.3 percent by the end of 2013, slightly below its June forecast of 7.2 percent to 7.3 percent. It predicts that unemployment will fall as low as 6.4 percent next year, down from 6.5 percent in its June forecast.
The Fed’s policy statement was approved on a 9-1 vote. Esther George, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, dissented for the sixth time this year. She repeated her concerns that the bond purchases could fuel the risk of inflation and financial instability.
The decision to maintain its stimulus follows reports of sluggish economic growth. Employers slowed hiring this summer, and consumers spent more cautiously.
Super-low rates are credited with helping fuel a housing comeback, support economic growth, drive stocks to record highs and restore the wealth of many Americans. But the average rate on the 30-year mortgage has jumped more than a full percentage point since May and was 4.57 percent last week — just below the two-year high.
Investors had bid up those loan rates in anticipation that the Fed would reduce its stimulus as early as this month.
John Canally, investment strategist at LPL Financial, suggested that financial markets overreacted in anticipation of reduced bond purchases, thereby driving interest rates sharply higher.