The Fed is concerned that the recovery could falter, as it did last year. Americans aren't receiving meaningful pay increases. Gas prices are high. And Europe's debt crisis could weigh on the U.S. economy.
As long as inflation remains tame, analysts think the Fed will likely hold interest rates down to give the economy more support. Most economists don't think Fed officials will change their interest-rate policy at their next meeting on April 24-25 and will ease credit only if the economy slows further.
"The clear tone of Chairman Bernanke's statement is that he is defending the Fed's current highly accommodative position," said David Jones, chief economist at DMJ Advisors.
AP Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber contributed to this report.
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