By MARTIN CRUTSINGERWASHINGTON (AP) — With six days before Americans choose a new president, the Federal Reserve sent a dual message Wednesday: It isn't yet time to raise interest rates. But it's getting very close. After its latest policy meeting, the Fed dropped hints that it might resume raising rates at its next meeting in mid-December — a step that would likely lead to some higher loan rates for consumers and businesses. The Fed most recently raised rates in December last year but has since remained on the sidelines. In a statement Wednesday, the Fed said nothing explicit about considering a rate hike at its "next meeting" — words it had used last year before it raised rates in December. But the brighter economic portrait it sketched Wednesday suggested that a rate increase is edging closer. A rate hike would mean that the Fed has concluded that the economy is now sturdy enough for the central bank to resume withdrawing the extraordinary aid it provided during the Great Recession. Here are three takeaways from the statement the Fed issued: ___ A STEADY ECONOMY The Fed described a strengthening job market, rising consumer spending and improved economic growth after a weak start to the year. All of that helps explain why it said the case for a rate hike has "continued to strengthen." As it has before, the Fed said that even after it resumes raising rates, it's confident that the economy will expand moderately and the job market will strengthen. The statement noted that the unemployment rate has changed little in recent months. But the current rate — 5 percent — has long been associated with a healthy economy. Repeating an observation it made after its previous meeting in September, the Fed said the risks to the economy were "roughly balanced." Translation? That the economy is no more likely to underperform the Fed's expectations than to exceed them — well, almost so.