Jeff Kearns
Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON: The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that the economy is gaining momentum as consumers spend more, and said it would continue to trim the pace of bond purchases.

“Growth in economic activity has picked up recently, after having slowed sharply,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement following a policymakers’ meeting. “Household spending appears to be rising more quickly.”

The committee pared monthly asset buying to $45 billion, its fourth straight $10 billion cut, and said further reductions in “measured steps” are likely.

New Chair Janet Yellen is winding down record stimulus as the world’s largest economy shows signs of rebounding from a first-quarter standstill. At the same time, the Fed repeated that it’s likely to keep the benchmark interest rate near zero for a “considerable time” after bond purchases end.

Fed officials repeated long-term inflation expectations remain stable. The central bank’s preferred gauge of consumer prices climbed 0.9 percent in the year through February and hasn’t exceeded the Fed’s 2 percent goal since March 2012.

Bond purchases will be divided between $25 billion in Treasuries and $20 billion in mortgage debt.

The Fed kept its forward guidance on borrowing costs, saying it will consider a “wide range of information” in deciding when to raise the benchmark federal funds rate, or the cost of overnight loans among banks.

The decision was unanimous.

Growth is forecast by economists to accelerate to a 3 percent pace this quarter.

Private employment in March exceeded the pre-recession peak for the first time as payrolls excluding government agencies rose by 192,000 workers.

“We’re definitely seeing a pickup from what was an unexpectedly weak first quarter,” Keith Hembre, who helps oversee $120 billion as chief economist at Nuveen Asset Management LLC in Minneapolis, said before the Fed statement. Hembre is a former Minneapolis Fed researcher.