The Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) met today to discuss monetary policy. The statement it issued was almost identical to what it said in January. It sees the economy continuing to improve, though slowly, with inflation likely subdued for some time. It also indicated that the winding down of its emergency facilities would continue, as scheduled. Finally, it reiterated that it intended to keep the federal funds rate very low for an "extended period of time."
That final aspect of the statement has become the most controversial in recent months. One member of the FOMC, Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig dissented in January that the language used should be a little more conservative in terms of setting the market's fed funds rate expectation. The minutes of the January meeting explained that he have preferred if the committee stated that the rate would be low "for some time" instead of for an "extended period of time." That way the FOMC would have more flexibility to act swiftly to raise rates, if necessary, without upsetting the market.
While the difference is subtle, whenever the Fed does make this change in language, you can be sure that the market will react. Even though the broader FOMC resisted making the change in language this time around, I wouldn't be surprised if you see it in April or May. The committee can't keep rates near zero forever, so they're going to have to begin getting the market used to the idea that rates will increase eventually.