The Federal Reserve expressed confidence in the strength of the U.S. economy Wednesday. At the end of a two-day policy meeting, the central bank said "economic activity has picked up following its severe downturn," an upgrade from its last statement in August, when it said economic activity was "leveling out."

The Fed is feeling confident enough to announce the winding down of its largest interventions in the economy: It said Wednesday that its $1.45 trillion effort to support the mortgage market will be phased out to conclude in March 2010. (See "Ending The $1.45 Trillion Shopping Spree.") Its $300 billion program to purchase government debt will end, as previously announced, next month. As widely expected, the Fed said it would keep interest rates at their floor, 0% to 0.25%.