Fed-watchers had their ears peeled after Wednesday's meeting of the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee for any signal of when the central bank might start tapering its $120 billion in monthly assets purchases, which have been a key component of its pandemic response. 

In December, the committee stated that it planned to continue to purchase $80 billion in Treasury securities and $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities per month "until substantial further progress has been made toward its maximum employment and price stability goals."

Today's FOMC statement noted that while progress had been made, "the Committee will continue to assess progress in coming meetings."

As expected, the committee will also keep interest rates near zero for the foreseeable future. 

With COVID delta variant cases rising and governments beginning to reimpose measures such as mask requirements, some expected the Fed to adjust its outlook. 

But Fed Chair Powell noted during his presser that while the uptick in delta variant cases would certainly have public health consequences, it likely wouldn't alter the course of the recovery.  

"What we’ve seen though is with successive waves of COVID over the past year and some months now there has tended to be less in the way of economic implications from each wave," he said. 

On inflation, Powell maintained that recent larger-than-expected price increases were transitory, and that the Fed would maintain its long-run goal of roughly 2 percent.  

He also noted that the economy still had a ways to go before reaching maximum employment, which, along with price stability, Powell has continually stressed as a primary goal of the Fed. 

"I'd say we have some ground to cover on the labor market side," he said. 

When asked during the Q&A about what maximum employment looked like, Powell said the Fed was looking at a range of data points and that, unlike the inflation rate, "there isn't a single number that we can target." 

Getting a bit deeper into the weeds of Fed policy, the committee also announced that it plans to introduce two new "standing repo facilities" designed to provide liquidity in the Treasury market, which has experienced periodic turmoil in recent years. 

One facility will target primary dealers and banks in the domestic economy, while the other will target foreign and international monetary authorities. 

"These facilities will serve as backstops in money markets to support the effective implementation of monetary policy and smooth market functioning," Powell said. 

The announcement comes on the same day that the Group of 30, an international consortium of financiers and academics including the likes of former treasury secretary Larry Summers and former Bank of England president Mervyn King, issued a report recommending that the Fed widen access to its repo facilities in the Treasury market. 

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