Fed cuts inflation, growth forecasts (by Steve Goldstein)
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- The Federal Reserve on Wednesday softened its growth and inflation forecasts over the next three years, as the central bank said the unemployment rate will hold above 8% through the end of 2012. The Fed also cut its inflation forecast down aggressively, to between 1.2% and 1.7% this year, as opposed to its forecast in April between 1.9% and 2%. The central bank targets 2% inflation over the medium term, so the reduced inflation forecast is likely to ratchet up expectations of additional central bank easing, possibly as soon as August. The Fed's forecast for growth this year is down to a range of 1.9% to 2.4%, down from 2.4% to 2.9% in April -- and its April 2011 forecast that 2012 growth would range between 3.5% and 4.2%. Also of note, it appears that the two newest voters, Jerome Powell and Jeremy Stein, are among the most dovish; the most recent breakdown of when the right time to raise hikes shows the only change is in 2015, which now has six members in that camp, up from four in April. Powell and Stein were recently sworn in as Fed governors.