FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians wearing masks walk in front of shuttered buildings as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, U.S., April 27, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal Reserve policymakers on Wednesday left interest rates near zero and repeated a vow to do what it takes to shore up the economy, saying the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will “weigh heavily” on the near-term outlook and poses “considerable risks” for the medium term.

“The Federal Reserve is committed to using its full range of tools to support the U.S. economy in this challenging time, thereby promoting its maximum employment and price stability goals,” the U.S. central bank said in a statement at the end of a two-day policy meeting held via videoconference because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a matter of weeks the U.S. economy has gone from historically low unemployment to seeing more than 26 million people file for unemployment benefits and the sharpest plunge in activity since the Great Recession as government authorities across the country shut down large swaths of industry and commerce to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

With so much uncertainty around the economic outlook, the Fed said it expects to maintain the target range for its benchmark overnight lending rate “until it is confident that the economy has weathered recent events and is on track to achieve its maximum employment and price stability goals.”

Fed Chair Jerome Powell is scheduled to hold a press conference at 2:30 EDT (1830 GMT) to discuss the results of the meeting, which was the first since the Fed slashed interest rates to near zero and took other emergency steps to stabilize financial markets.

(Graphic: America’s pandemic safety net link: here)

Reporting by Ann Saphir, Lindsay Dunsmuir, Howard Schneider and Jonnelle Marte; Editing by Paul Simao

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