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Fed to maintain purchases of bonds

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WASHINGTON (KNOE 8 News/AP) - Investors are waiting to see whether one of Ben Bernanke's final acts as chairman of the Federal Reserve will be to announce a pullback in the Fed's bond purchases.

The monthly purchases totaling $85 billion have been intended to keep long-term loan rates low to spur economic growth.

Most economists think the central bank will announce that it's maintaining that pace after concluding its latest policy meeting this afternoon. One factor in that thinking is the historically low inflation rate. For the 12 months ending in October, consumer inflation was just 0.7 percent, well below the Fed's target rate of 2 percent.

Still, analysts think the Fed will start trimming its bond purchases at one of its next two meetings, either in January or March.

Bernanke will also give his final quarterly news conference this afternoon. His second four-year term as chairman ends Jan. 31, when Vice Chair Janet Yellen will likely succeed him. The Senate is expected to approve Yellen's nomination this week.

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