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Fed notes better economy, takes no policy action

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve sketched a mildly brighter view of the economy Tuesday after a burst of hiring since its last meeting in January. It took no further steps to aid the recovery and repeated its plan to keep short-term interest rates near zero through 2014.

After a one-day policy meeting, the Fed said unemployment should continue to decline gradually as the economy expands moderately. It also noted that consumer spending and business investment have picked up.

And the Fed took a more hopeful view of Europe’s debt crisis. Though the crisis still threatens the global economy, the danger has eased, the Fed said.

The policymakers cautioned that rising oil and gas prices will raise inflation temporarily. But they said longer-term inflation should remain stable — repeating a view expressed by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke earlier this month.

The statement was approved on a 9-1 vote. Atlanta Fed President Jeffrey M. Lacker dissented for the second straight meeting. The statement said Lacker doesn’t “anticipate that economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate through late 2014.”