Expectations high for Fed to announce major action

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by Laura Matovina

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Is the Federal Reserve about to prescribe some new medicine for the U.S. economy?

Analysts awaiting the outcome of today's central bank meeting think it could announce a third round of bond purchases meant to ease long-term interest rates and spur borrowing and spending. It's been called "quantitative easing," or QE.

Others predict a more measured response saying it might just extend the timetable for any rise in record-low short-term rates beyond the current target of late 2014 at the earliest.

Fed officials began their discussions yesterday and will end with an announcement of any decision around midday. Later, Chairman Ben Bernanke will hold his quarterly news conference.

The Fed is facing pressure to act now because the U.S. economy is still growing too slowly to reduce high unemployment.

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