(Reuters) - The Federal Reserve launched another aggressive stimulus program on Thursday, saying it would pump $40 billion into the U.S. economy each month until it saw a sustained upturn in the weak jobs market.
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The central bank's decision to tie its controversial bond buying directly to economic conditions was an unprecedented step that marked a big escalation in its efforts to drive U.S. unemployment lower. Stock prices jumped, while gold hit a six-month high as investors braced for faster inflation.
Unlike in its two previous bond-buying sprees, the Fed said it would only purchase mortgage-backed securities, hoping in part to unstick a housing sector that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke called "a missing piston" in the U.S. recovery.
One top Republican charged that the move was a bid to help President Barack Obama ahead of November's closely contested presidential election. Republican nominee Mitt Romney's campaign said it confirmed the failure of Obama's policies.
Bernanke dismissed talk the Fed was taking sides, saying it acted solely because of the dire state of the U.S. labor market.
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