As rising prices and the spread of new virus variants increase risks to the US economy, Federal Reserve officials are expected to maintain their easy money policies intended to help American companies and workers survive the pandemic damage.
But as the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) begins its two-day policy meeting Tuesday, markets and traders will be watching for hints of when it will begin tapering its massive monthly debt purchases.
The bond buying program aimed to ease lending conditions during the crisis, but has come under scrutiny recently as inflation has soared to record levels as businesses reopen and consumers spend the savings built up during the worst months of the pandemic.
And focus also will be on any sign the Fed is rethinking its pledge to keep the benchmark lending rate at zero until the economy achieves maximum employment.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell has repeatedly said the rise in inflation is a temporary effect of the economy getting back to normal, and that the Fed has tools to respond if the surge goes on too long.
But Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research said the swiftness of the price spike likely has surprised the central bank.