WASHINGTON — The Fed will buy $40 billion per month of mortgage-backed securities and extended the time frame for keeping the federal funds rate at exceptionally low rates to at least mid-2015, the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement released Thursday following the FOMC's two-day meeting.

The FOMC said it the MBS purchase program will be open-ended.

The committee said it would continue its "Operation Twist" program to extend the average maturity of its holdings through the end of the year, and is maintaining its existing policy reinvesting principal payments from its holding of agency debt and agency MBS in agency MBS.

These actions would increase the holdings of longer-term securities by about $85 billion dollars each month through the end of the year. The goal is to put downward pressure on longer term interest rates, support the mortgage markets, and help make broader financial conditions "more accommodative," the FOMC said.

The FOMC also decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at zero to 0.25% and said it currently anticipates that exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate will likely be warranted through at least mid-2015.

Richmond Fed President Jeffrey M. Lacker opposed a new asset purchase program and preferred to omit the description of the time period during which the federal funds rate might be kept at very low levels.

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