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After a two-day meeting in Washington, policymakers unanimously voted to keep the U.S. interest rate range unmoved between 2.25pc and 2.5pc, changing the initial outlook from two hikes in 2019 to none.

The Fed's decision not to raise rates in 2019 is a marked change from three months ago, when the central bank projected two rate hikes in 2019.

The Federal Reserve says USA growth has slowed from the "solid" rate seen back in the fourth quarter of 2018 and this can be expected to lead to an easing of inflation over the coming months, which means the bank is under less pressure to raise its interest rate.

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But doubts have accumulated, with a slowdown in household spending and business investment at the start of this year possibly signaling an early end to a growth spurt triggered in 2018 by a massive tax cut package and government spending. And overall inflation has declined, thanks largely due to lower energy prices.

The Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee on Wednesday left its target rate unchanged at 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent.

Economic projections released by the Fed showed weakening on all fronts compared to December's forecasts.

"By shifting from expecting three hikes this year as recently as last September to now expecting none, they are very exposed if wage gains continue to accelerate", said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. Low interest rates can boost high-dividend paying stocks in particular, whose payouts suddenly look more compelling, and utilities and real-estate stocks had some of the market's biggest gains Wednesday.

In signaling no rate increases at all this year, the Fed's policymakers reduced their forecast from two that were previously predicted in December.

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The US central bank raised US interest rates seven times over 2017 and 2018. The decision marked a change from the past few years.

Continued growth and a healthy jobs market remains "the most likely" scenario for the US economy, the Fed's rate-setting committee said in a policy statement on Wednesday.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testifies before the Senate Banking Committee on February 26.

But from October, it will no longer reduce its Treasury holdings, while continuing to runoff $20 billion a month of MBS, the Fed said in a separate statement. The 10-year Treasury yield dove to its lowest level since January 2018 as the market baked in a prolonged period of meh US growth.

Markets expect the Fed to strike a dovish tone when it meets this week, and bets on an interest rate cut have increased after weaker-than-expected manufacturing data on Friday.

Powell noted risks to his positive outlook include a slowdown in Europe and ongoing trade tensions with China.

"The fact that they've announced balance sheet runoff ending I think is certainly quite dovish as well", said Gennadiy Goldberg, interest rate strategist at TD Securities in NY.

Powell, appearing last week on CBS's "60 Minutes, " denied that pressure from Trump had influenced the Fed's policy shift.


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