The Federal Reserve's assessment of the economy continues to improve, prompting policymakers to reiterate that they will keep the benchmark interest rate low for a while. The Fed's purchases of mortgage-backed securities will be slowed to draw out the program timeline from December to the end of March. "The Fed wanted to exit with as little disruption as possible to the market," said Peter Hooper, Deutsche Bank Securities' chief economist. "Doubling the length of time you're going to make the purchases allows for a pretty smooth transition."

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