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Fed: US Economy Grows 'Moderately'

A customer checks out at a Target store in Lombard, Illinois (file photo)

A customer checks out at a Target store in Lombard, Illinois (file photo)

Officials of the U.S. central bank say the economy has grown "moderately," and they kept the key interest rate steady at ultra-low levels, a range of zero to 0.25 percent, where it has been for about three years.

Tuesday's report from the Federal Reserve also said global growth is slowing, prehaps a reference to Europe's debt crisis that has troubled financial markets and worried investors. The Fed statement said the housing sector is "depressed" and called unemployment "elevated." Fed officials predict the U.S. jobless rate will decline slowly.

The central bank has been trying to ease problems in the housing and job markets by bolstering economic growth with low interest rates.

Federal Reserve officials announced no new programs to speed economic growth. Previously, they tried to boost economic growth with a program to cut long-term interest rates by purchasing large quantities of government bonds.

If efforts to boost the economy go too far, they can spark inflation, but Fed offcials say inflation has moderated.

Earlier Tuesday, a report showed that U.S. retail sales rose a meager 0.2 percent in November, which is less than the previous month, and less than most economists expected.

The data comes from the Commerce Department. Experts watch retail sales closely because consumer demand drives about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

Some information for this report was provided by AP Bloomberg and Reuters.