US Fed Chair Janet Yellen says the case for increasing rates has ‘strengthened 'in recent months'
Janet Yellen said the Federal Reserve would not increase interest rates Reuters

The Federal Reserve (Fed) left interest rates unchanged in its first meeting since Donald Trump's inauguration.

The decision by the US central bank not to raise its key interest rate on Wednesday (1 February) was not unexpected, with officials reportedly planning to raise interest rates slowly.

In a statement seen by CNN, the Fed said it "expects that, with gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace."

Following the conclusion of its meeting, the Fed said it needs more time to consider the situation, despite inflation climbing towards its 2% target and strengthening of the job market.

The Fed is reportedly predicting three interest rate rises throughout 2017, although there are fears that actions by the new president may force through quicker hikes – which could affect global markets.

The Fed said in its 1 February statement: "Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee expects that, with gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace, labor market conditions will strengthen somewhat further, and inflation will rise to 2 percent over the medium term. Near-term risks to the economic outlook appear roughly balanced. The Committee continues to closely monitor inflation indicators and global economic and financial developments.

"In view of realised and expected labour market conditions and inflation, the Committee decided to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 1/2 to 3/4 percent. The stance of monetary policy remains accommodative, thereby supporting some further strengthening in labor market conditions and a return to 2 percent inflation."

Trump's plans to tax Mexican imports to pay for a border wall could also raise inflation rates, although it is not yet clear whether such plans will come to fruition.

"They are still in a wait and see mode," chief US economist for Deutsche Bank told CNBC.

"This is a Fed that's still going to be very cautious and gradual in raising rates and will be reactive. They are not going to be moving in an anticipatory sense."

Consumer sentiment has improved since Trump's election victory and subsequent inauguration, although over the past few days – following the news of the president's so-called Muslim ban – this has deflated slightly.

As such, the Fed's "wait and see" attitude to rate hikes comes as there is no clear indication as to how Trump's policies on immigration and trade will play out for the US economy.