NEW YORK – Nearly one-third of Federal Open Market Committee members expect the next policy firming will be in 2014, with almost as many seeing the first tightening in 2015, according to projections released Wednesday by the Fed.

The anonymous projections show the most popular choice for the next policy tightening was 2014, with 5 of the 17 members predicting a rate hike that year, 4 felt that it would be 2015 before monetary policy would change, and 2 expecting the rates to be held until 2016. On the other side, three members each predicted tightening in 2012 and 2013.

The lion’s share of members see the target Fed funds rate staying at zero to 0.25% at the end of this year, with one member expecting a 25 basis point hike before yearend and two seeing a hike to 1% by December. A few more start seeing the rates rise in 2013, with one expecting a 0.50% target, two a 0.75% target, one a 1% rate and one each at 1.75% and 2%.

While the plurality expects rates still zero to 0.25% at the end of 2014, two see the rate going up to 0.50%, one to 0.75%, two see a 1% rate, one each at 1.50% and 2%, three expect the rate to rise to 2.50% and one sees a 2.75% rate.

Over the long term, the rate is expected to be 4% to 4.5%, according to predictions.

The other projections by the panel cut change in real GDP projections for this year and next, with a slight increase in projections for 2014. The panel now expects GDP to rise between 2.2% and 2.7% this year, 2.8% to 3.2% next year and 3.3% to 4.0% in 2014.

The group sees unemployment trending lower than it did in November, with expectations for unemployment rates of 8.2% to 8.5% this year, 7.4% to 8.1% by the end of 2013, and 6.7% to 7.6% in 2014.

Inflation rate projections were pretty close to November’s predictions in both the headline and core numbers, with both showing up to 1.8% inflation this year, and 2.0% in each of the next two years.

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