US GDP grew at a 0.1% annual rate for the first quarter, well below expectations for 1.2% growth. Much of the weakness was blamed on harsh winter conditions. Stronger growth is expected to pickup in the second quarter and consistent with that view, the FOMC voted to reduce bond purchases by $10 billion, marking the fourth consecutive reduction. Monthly purchases now stand at $45 billion, roughly half of the peak. Fed officials remain optimistic about growth, believe the GDP slowdown is temporary, see little prospect of inflation, and pledged to hold the Fed Funds Rate near zero “for a considerable time” after tapering ends. Geopolitical tensions remain elevated in Ukraine as its security is threatened by unrest and additional sanctions are imposed on Russia.