The Federal Open Market Committee held its key policy rate, the federal funds target rate, unchanged at zero to 0.25% yesterday, reiterating that economic conditions warrant "exceptionally low" interest rates "for an extended period."

Financial conditions "have become less supportive of economic growth on balance, largely reflecting developments abroad," the FOMC said in language added to its April policy statement.

For the fourth straight meeting, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City president Thomas Hoenig was the lone dissenter. He said that continuing to use the language "exceptionally low" interest rates "for an extended period" was no longer warranted because it could lead to a build-up of future imbalances and limit the Fed's flexibility to raise rates going forward.

The FOMC last changed the federal funds rate in December 2008, when it dropped the nation's benchmark lending rate into its current range of zero to 0.25%, from around 1.0%. The committee last raised rates in June 2006.

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