The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady Wednesday (3-16-16) and scaled-back its expectations for further rate hikes for 2016 and 2017. At its December meeting, the Fed projected four rate hikes in 2016, but new estimates released today reduced that number to two. Fed officials also cut their expectations for economic growth and inflation. In addition to the two rate increases this year, the Federal Open Market Committee now projects just two hikes in 2017. The current interest rate target is 0.25 to 0.5 percent, and Fed officials back in December had expected the upper level to rise to 1.4 percent by year’s end. With the new projections, the FOMC now sees just a 0.9 percent funds rate in 2016 and a 1.9 percent level by the end of 2017, both reflecting cuts of half a percentage point. The Fed also cut its GDP growth outlook for 2016 from 2.4 percent to 2.2 percent and reduced 2017’s estimate from 2.2 percent to 2.1 percent.