Despite blizzard, Fed policymakers plan to meet this week to consider interest rate hike

Despite a blizzard that closed the federal government on Monday, the Federal Reserve said monetary policymakers planned to meet this week as scheduled to consider whether to nudge up a key interest rate for the second month in a row.

About 18 inches of snow fell in Washington in the storm that began Friday.

The federal government closed at noon Friday and all offices, including the Fed's Washington headquarters, were closed on Monday. Government offices also could be closed Tuesday as the region struggles to return to normal.

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But with world financial markets in turmoil, the Fed announced its policymaking Federal Open Market Committee would meet as scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Participants unable to attend in person will be able to participate by video conference," the Fed said in a statement on its website.

In addition to Fed Chairwoman Janet L. Yellen and four other Washington-based central bank governors, the committee includes voting and alternate members from regional Fed banks across the country.

The blizzard dumped more than two feet of snow in some places around the Washington region and led to the cancellation of thousands of airline flights. The aftermath could make it difficult for committee members to get to the nation's capital.

But the Fed plans to go on with its two-day meeting, which will be followed by the release of a monetary policy statement at 11 a.m. PST Wednesday.

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Officials are not expected to raise the central bank's benchmark federal funds rate, which was nudged up by 0.25 percentage point in December for the first time in nearly a decade.

But after major stock indexes in the U.S. and abroad tumbled to start the year, Fed policymakers could give indications about their concerns regarding the global and U.S. economies. They also could signal if another rate hike is coming after their next meeting, in March.

jim.puzzanghera@latimes.com

Follow @JimPuzzanghera on Twitter

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