The Federal Reserve opted not to raise interest rates at its January meeting and gave no indication that it was changing course on its rate-hiking path ahead.
Amid substantial turmoil in financial markets, the Federal Open Market Committee statement issued Wednesday did say it was "closely monitoring global economic and financial developments," referring to the volatility that led most of Wall Street to dismiss the possibility of a rate hike this month.
Major stock averages sold off immediately after the statement as Wall Street parsed out Fed language for how hawkish the U.S. central bank will be through the rest of the year.
"It's the tail wagging the dog. If the market stabilizes, the Fed will hike," said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank. "The problem is, the markets are looking for some certitude and they can't get it. That's the problem with data dependency. It means different things to different people. The inability of (Fed Chair) Janet Yellen to articulate this is going to be a growing source of concern for markets."
There were a handful of changes to the Fed's outlook, including a lowering of what it considers full employment, dropping that figure to 4.9 percent, which is just below the current rate of 5 percent.
In addition, the committee did indicate some additional concerns regarding inflation, though it considers current conditions transitory. The committee "would be concerned" if there were signs that inflation was "running persistently above or below this objective."