WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve officials were encouraged last month by evidence the economy was picking up. But they showed no sign of moving closer to ending their bond purchases or lifting their benchmark short-term interest rate from nearly zero. Fed policymakers also said they expect inflation will likely rise in the next few months because of supply bottlenecks. But they believe it will remain near their 2% target over the longer run. The views emerged in minutes taken during the central bank’s March 16 to 17 meeting. The minutes were released Wednesday after the customary three-week lag.