Federal Reserve Board officials feared the U.S. economy might fall into a self-reinforcing cycle of rising unemployment and slumping business and consumer spending, making credit harder to come by in a weak financial system, minutes of the Federal Reserve Board's March meeting show.

"Participants expressed concern about downside risks to an outlook for activity that was already weak," minutes of the March 17-18 meeting released in Washington said. "Credit conditions remained very tight, and financial markets remained fragile and unsettled, with pressures on financial institutions generally intensifying."

The outlook prompted the Federal Open Market Committee in a unanimous vote to increase its open-market purchases of bonds by $1.15 trillion, continuing its unprecedented increase in money supplied to the economy.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.