The U.S. Federal Reserve said on Wednesday it will extend to the end of October a program to buy longer-term government securities, and it kept interest rates steady near zero as expected.

The Fed slashed interest rates to a range of between zero and 0.25 percent in December and has pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy to stimulate economic activity in the worst recession in decades.

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal and Alister Bull)