The Federal Reserve's policy board is expected to launch new monetary easing measures Thursday to shore up the frail US economy and kickstart job creation.
Analysts said the Federal Open Market Committee would likely find the economic data too weak and the impact of slowing in Europe and China too worrisome to continue putting off action to stimulate growth at the end of their two-day policy review.
The dollar dropped against the euro and stock markets rose Wednesday amid broad anticipation of moves, which analysts said would at least include a strong commitment to holding their benchmark interest rate at the current near-zero level through 2015.
But Fed watchers also expected the possible launch of "QE3," a huge "quantitative easing" bond-buying program aimed at further depressing long-term interest rates.
"Fed officials will almost certainly announce new easing today," said Jim O'Sullivan, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics.
Peter Hooper and Torsten Slok of Deutsche Bank said the Fed has "made it clear" that some form of easing will take place at the meeting.
"There seems little doubt that the easing will entail a strengthening of its verbal guidance on the low-for-long policy," they added.
The announcement comes at 12:30 pm (1630 GMT), with amplification following shortly afterward in the form of a release of FOMC economic projections and a press conference by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Pressure has been building for new action by the FOMC for months as economic growth sank to 1.7 percent in the second quarter and looks possible to fall below the 2.0 percent level in the third.
Based on the available data so far, and especially with the impact of the drought across the US Midwest, Macroeconomic Advisers said that economic growth appears to be on a 1.5 percent pace for the third quarter.
But the 12 members of the committee are divided over whether the economy is weak enough to merit more action.
Bernanke made clear two weeks ago that he favors new monetary easing, as he addressed central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
He called growth tepid and honed in on the unemployment rate, which has stayed stuck above eight percent all year, with little significant reduction in the number of jobless.
"The stagnation of the labor market in particular is a grave concern not only because of the enormous suffering and waste of human talent it entails, but also because persistently high levels of unemployment will wreak structural damage on our economy that could last for many years."
Bernanke's view earned support on Friday, when national data for August showed just 96,000 jobs created during the month, while some 368,000 people gave up searching for jobs and left the labor force altogether.
In Jackson Hole, Bernanke also defended previous QE operations, including the $600 billion QE2 bond-buying program of 2010-2011, as having boosted production by almost three percent and added two million private sector jobs, "relative to what otherwise would have occurred."
But analysts were not sure a QE3 was on the way, especially given the political flack the previous ones took on from conservative economists and politicians.
A new, pricey QE operation might not go over well as the presidential election battle heads into its final weeks.
"Whether we get another dose of QE announced now is close to a toss-up," said the Deutsche Bank economists.
O'Sullivan said he expected a new round of quantitative easing, and that it would "include mortgage-backed securities as well as Treasuries and, probably, be open-ended and flexible rather than unveiled as a total number."
Michael Gregory, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, disagreed, though only on the timing.
"QE is only a matter of time; it's just not this time," he said.