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US Central Bank Maintains Efforts to Stimulate Economy

Top officials of the U.S. central bank have decided to maintain their efforts to stimulate the economy as it recovers from the worst recession in decades.

At a Wednesday news conference in Washington, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the economy still needs help because the current unemployment rate is too high.

Bernanke said policymakers need more evidence the U.S. economy, the world's largest, is improving before trimming the asset purchases.

"The committee concluded that the economic data did not yet provide sufficient confirmation of its base-line outlook to warrant such a reduction."

The Fed has been trying to boost economic growth with a program of purchasing $85 billion a month in securities. Many economists had expected officials to reduce that by billions of dollars.

The program is intended to reduce long-term interest rates, which would make it easier for companies to buy new equipment and for families to buy new homes.

Fed officials also have been trying to speed up economic growth by pushing short-term interest rates down to almost zero. Bernanke said the Fed will keep short-term rates at record lows for some time.

The Fed has to strike a careful balance in stimulus efforts. If it cuts back too soon, the world's largest economy could fall back into recession. If it over-stimulates the economy, the Fed raises the risk that inflation could cause serious problems.