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Fed to keep interest rate near zero for 2 years

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve sketched a dim outlook for the economy Tuesday, suggesting it will remain weak for two more years. As a result, the Fed said it expects to keep its key interest rate near zero through mid-2013.

It's the first time the Fed has pegged its "exceptionally low" rates to a specific date. The Fed had previously said only that it would keep its key rate at record lows for "an extended period."

The Fed announced no new efforts to energize the economy in its statement released after its one-day policy meeting. But the statement held out the promise of lower rates on mortgages and other consumer loans longer than many had assumed.

The decision was approved on a 7-3 vote. Three Fed regional bank presidents who have been worried about inflation objected to the move. It was the first time since November 1992 that as many as three Fed members have dissented from a policy statement.

The Fed's new timetable and its implications for the economy led to a wild afternoon of trading on Wall Street. Stocks plunged after the statement was released, but then shot up shortly after. The Dow Jones industrial average sank more than 176 points, then recovered its losses and closed up 429 points for the day.


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