Caught between a weak economy and the threat of inflation - two problems that argue for opposite solutions - the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) has little choice but to essentially stand pat at the culmination of its meeting today (Wednesday).
Faced with that challenge, it's likely that U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke will maintain his established course of downplaying the growing threat of inflation and making only minor policy adjustments.
Most economists expect the Fed to maintain its historically low federal-funds rate at the 0% to 0.25% level where it has been since December 2008 and end of the $600 billion bond-buying stimulus program known as quantitative easing (QE2) as planned.
Meanwhile, the prospects for a third round - QE3 - appear very dim, at least through the rest of 2011.
"I expect the Fed to maintain the low interest-rate environment, with no hint of any change to policy either," Frank Lesh, broker and futures analyst with FuturePath Trading, told Forbes.
Despite $2.79 trillion in various Fed stimulus programs over the past two years, U.S. unemployment has ticked back up above 9%, and gross domestic product (GDP) growth slumped to 1.8% growth in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, the massive infusion of money into the economy has jump-started inflation. The consumer price index rose 3.6% year-over-year in May - its fastest pace since 2008.