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Fed expects economy to keep improving21 May

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — The Federal Reserve has a more optimistic outlook for the U.S. economy, according to meeting minutes released Wednesday, but the central bank is still debating how to shrink its massive balance sheet.

The Fed now expects U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity, to increase at an annual rate of between 3.2% and 3.7% in 2010. That’s up from the Fed’s previous estimate of between 2.8% and 3.5% in January.

GDP rose at a 3.2% annual rate in the first three months of this year, the government said last month.

At the same time, the Fed reduced its forecast for the nation’s unemployment rate to a range between 9.1% and 9.5% this year, versus 9.5% to 9.7% in January. The unemployment rate currently stands at 9.9%.

The minutes were from the Fed’s most recent Open Market Committee meeting, which took place last month. That meeting happened before the financial markets were rocked by an escalation of fears about the economic crisis in Europe.

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