US Federal Reserve upbeat on economy as interest rates held

The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady on Wednesday in its first meeting since President Donald Trump took office, but painted a relatively upbeat picture of the US economy that suggested it was on track to tighten monetary policy this year.

Central bankers have been cautious about raising rates too quickly, and likely will tread cautiously as Trump shakes up U.S. policy, threatening to cancel trade pacts and impose new tariffs, criticizing trade partners and promising economic stimulus, tax cuts and slashed regulation.

In its statement following the meeting, the Fed painted a relatively upbeat picture of the United States economy, noting that job gains remained solid, inflation had increased and economic confidence was rising.

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Many economists expect the central bank to wait until they see the Trump Administration's new budget, due in March and other policies.

Trump's plans to tax Mexican imports to pay for a border wall could also raise inflation rates, although it is not yet clear whether such plans will come to fruition.

The dollar just gave up its gains after the Fed decision.

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But now, the Fed is looking to return borrowing rates to more normal levels, but moving cautiously so as to not upset the ongoing recovery.

If policymakers think the economy is at full employment, then they will be more prone to raise interest rates to ward off risks of overheating. If the Fed does want to signal investors of a forthcoming rate increase, it can use Chair Janet Yellen's semiannual testimony on interest-rate policy to Congress on February 14-15 to do so.

Economic activity continued to expand "at a moderate pace" and the unemployment rate stayed at its recent low level of 4.7 percent, while household spending continued to increase, it added. There's a similar gap in the number of part-time workers who want full-time hours.

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Observers fear such a decision could spark violence and signal the U.S. is no longer interested in pursuing a two-state solution. David Friedman, Trump's choice for ambassador to Israel, has said that he looks forward to performing his service "from the U.S.

Recent economic data have been positive.

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