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Fed stands by stimulus, sees stronger US economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve says the U.S. economy has strengthened after pausing late last year but still needs the Fed's extraordinary support to help lower high unemployment.

In a statement after a two-day meeting, the Fed says it's standing by its plan to keep short-term rates at record lows at least until unemployment falls to 6.5 percent, as long as the inflation outlook remains mild. And it says it will continue buying $85 billion a month in bonds indefinitely to keep long-term borrowing costs down.

The unemployment rate fell to a four-year low of 7.7 percent in February, among many signs of a healthier economy. The Fed notes in its statement that the job market has improved. But its latest economic forecast maintains that unemployment won't reach 6.5 percent until 2015.

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