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US Federal Reserve has increased its benchmark short-term interest rate by a quarter-point to 1.75 percent.

The increase announced on on the 21st September 2004, was the Fed's third rate increase since June 30, when it bumped interest rates up a quarter-point from a 46-year low of 1 percent. Most experts feel the Fed will push the benchmark rate up to 2 percent when it meets on Nov. 10, just after the presidential election.

Several banks, including Citigroup Inc. and JP Morgan Chase & Co., the nation's first- and second-largest, respectively, responded by raising their prime rate to 4.75 percent from 4.50 percent for many short-term loans to businesses and consumers. Other banks were expected to follow soon.

As a result, in the coming weeks businesses will pay more to borrow. And consumer loans that are based on the prime rate - including variable-rate credit cards, home-equity lines of credit and vehicle loans - also will rise slightly.

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