Fed Message: Economy Won't Improve This Year
The economy we've got today is more or less the economy we've got for the rest of the year.
That's the message from the Federal Reserve, which has sharply reduced its forecast for U.S. growth. It sees unemployment barely budging in the rest of 2012, The Associated Press reported.
The Fed also says the economy is under threat from Europe's debt crisis and from the prospect of sharp spending cuts and tax increases that will kick in at year's end unless Congress acts.
None of which is comforting for companies, job seekers or President Barack Obama, whose re-election hinges in part on whether the economy improves between now and November.
Until recently, many economists were hopeful that the economy would strengthen in the second half of the year. But optimism is fading as hiring and growth have slowed for a third straight spring.
To prod businesses and consumers to borrow and spend more, the Fed said at the end of a two-day policy meeting Wednesday that it would extend a program designed to drive down long-term interest rates. It also reiterated plans to keep short-term rates at record lows until at least late 2014. And it said it's ready to do more to jolt the economy if necessary.
"If we're not seeing a sustained improvement in the labor market, that would require additional action," Fed Chairman Benjamin Bernanke said in his quarterly news conference.