July 29 (UPI) -- The Federal Reserve left its benchmark lending rate unchanged and near zero Wednesday, saying the economy is still "well below" pre-pandemic levels.
The Fed lowered the rates twice in March as a result of the coronavirus, and kept the figure at 0% to 0.25%.
"The coronavirus outbreak is causing tremendous human and economic hardship across the United States and around the world," a statement from the Federal Open Market Committee said. "Following sharp declines, economic activity and employment have picked up somewhat in recent months but remain well below their levels at the beginning of the year."
The Fed blamed weaker demand and lower oil prices for keeping consumer price inflation down. It also said COVID-19 is keeping employment down and promises to do so for the medium term.
In June, the Fed said it doesn't expect to raise the federal funds rate until at least 2022.
The major markets closed the day with gains after the news as the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 160.29 points, or 0.61%, while the S&P 500 gained 1.24% and the Nasdaq Composite increased 1.35%.
Gold prices also hit an all-time high for the second time this week, rising 0.5% to $1953.50, while the dollar fell 0.2% against currencies used by major trading partners.