Seven years to the day after lowering interest rates to zero, the Federal Reserve on Wednesday took the first step away from the unprecedented emergency monetary measures it began during the recession.

The U.S. central bank announced it would raise its target for short-term interest rates a quarter-point from zero. Now, it will aim to keep rates between 0.25 percent and 0.50 percent.

The Fed said in a statement that it would base further increases on the strength of the economy and that it expected "only gradual increases" in its target rate. Projections released alongside the statement indicated that officials see it rising to 1.4 percent by the end of next year.

That small adjustment "marks the end of an extraordinary seven-year period during which the [target rate] was held near zero to support the recovery of the economy from the worst financial crisis and recession since the Great Depression," Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen said at a press conference following the announcement. "It also recognizes the considerable progress that has been made toward restoring jobs, raising incomes, and easing the economic hardship of millions of Americans. And it reflects the committee's confidence that the economy will continue to strengthen."

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