After a two-day meeting, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and her colleagues blamed the winter slump partly on “transitory factors” and repeated their belief that growth will pick up to a “moderate pace.”

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Federal Reserve policymakers left open the possibility of raising interest rates in the second half of this year by playing down the significance of the economy’s slowdown to a near-standstill in the first quarter.

In a statement issued Wednesday after a two-day meeting, Chair Janet Yellen and her colleagues blamed the winter slump partly on “transitory factors” and reiterated their belief that growth will pick up to a “moderate pace.”

“They were straightforward in acknowledging the weakness in the first quarter but avoided suggesting that ruled out interest-rate increases going forward,” said Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP in Jersey City, N.J.

U.S. stocks, Treasury securities and the dollar slipped as the Fed did little to alter views on the timing for higher rates.

The Fed repeated it will raise rates when it sees further labor-market improvement and is “reasonably confident” inflation will rise back to its 2 percent goal over time.

The benchmark federal funds rate has been kept near zero since December 2008 as the Federal Open Market Committee battled the worst recession since the Great Depression, then sought to keep the expansion going.

A rash of bad economic news so far this year was capped Wednesday by a Commerce Department report that U.S. gross domestic product rose at a 0.2 percent annualized pace in the first three months of 2015.

Economists blamed part of the poor performance on harsh winter weather and delays at West Coast ports due to a since-ended labor dispute.

Still, that didn’t stop some from marking down their projections of growth this quarter. Behind the downgrades: the biggest buildup in inventories since the third quarter of 2010, which companies probably will need to work off by cutting output.

Economists at Bank of America in New York reduced their second-quarter growth forecast to 2.5 percent from 3.5 percent, while St. Louis-based Macroeconomic Advisers cut its GDP tracking estimate to 2 percent from 2.2 percent.

Even before the release of the first-quarter GDP report, economists had pushed back their forecasts for a rate liftoff by the Fed.

In a Bloomberg survey last week, 73 percent of respondents predicted the central bank will wait until September. In a March poll, a majority predicted the first rate increase in June or July.

In leaving the door open to tighter credit in the second half, the Fed is banking on the economy mimicking its performance in 2014, when it rebounded after a weak start.

Wednesday’s statement, though, suggested policymakers are less certain of that happening than they were a year ago. Last April, the Fed confidently said the economy had turned up after slowing sharply during the winter, a characterization it didn’t repeat Wednesday.

Fed policymakers look to be pinning much of their hopes on a pickup in consumer spending.

Consumers have surprised many economists by saving rather than spending much of the windfall they gained from lower gas prices. The savings rate climbed to 5.5 percent in the first quarter, the highest since the end of 2012, from 4.6 percent in the fourth quarter.

That signals households have plenty of buying power that could be unleashed in coming months, something Fed officials apparently are hoping will happen.

“They made it pretty clear that they expect things will pick up, and that the labor market will tighten,” said Gus Faucher, senior economist at PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh. “If things turn out like we are expecting and like they are expecting, then I think September makes sense” for an interest-rate increase.