The Federal Open Market Committee, the policy-making arm of the Federal Reserve, on Wednesday announced that it would keep its benchmark interest rate target at near zero until the unemployment rate fell to 6.5 percent or the annual inflation rate rose to 2.5 percent, the first time the central bank has set such specific targets. In addition, the Fed said it would continue purchasing $85 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury bonds in 2013, another measure designed to ease borrowing and boost economic growth. Analysts say the move reflects a fundamental shift in the Fed's approach toward monetary policy, with a heightened focus on encouraging employment, rather than concentrating on keeping a lid on inflation.
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