Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen prepares to testify before a House Financial Services committee hearing on "Monetary Policy and the State of the Economy" on Capitol Hill at in Washington July 15, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
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Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen sees a number of encouraging signs that the economy is reviving after a brutal winter and says if the improvements stay on track, the Fed will likely start raising interest rates later this year.Delivering the Fed's mid-year economic outlook to Congress, Yellen said Wednesday the importance of the first rate hike should not be over-emphasized because interest rates are likely to remain at very low levels "for quite some time after the first increase". Many economists believe the Fed's first rate hike will occur in September, but they see at most only two quarter-point moves this year.The funds rate, the Fed's key policy lever, has not been lifted in nearly a decade.The Fed, responding to the 2008 financial crisis and the worst economic downturn in seven decades, expanded its balance sheet by purchasing trillions of dollars in bonds and took other aggressive actions to lower interest rates and battle high unemployment.
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