UPDATE 3-Fed could taper in Oct, depending on data -Bullard
NEW YORK, Sept 20 (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve could still scale back its massive bond-buying program at an October meeting should data point to a stronger economy, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said on Friday.
"October is a live meeting," he told Bloomberg television.
The Fed surprised markets this week when policymakers decided not to taper the $85-billion-per-month program, citing worries about the health of the world's biggest economy.
"This was a close decision here in September," Bullard said, emphasizing the role that economic data has played and will continue to play in Fed decisions.
But it was possible that data would come through that again changed the discussion around U.S. economic growth, he said, referring to the Fed's next policy meeting on Oct 29-30.
"I'm not saying it's going to happen," Bullard said, but the possibility existed. The dollar rose to a session high against the yen on his comments.
Some analysts see no October pullback in bond buying because there is no post-meeting news conference currently scheduled. The Fed would likely use such a news conference to detail why and how it chose to make any policy changes.
But that can always change, Bullard said.
Bullard's comments "that October is a 'live' meeting and that a press conference could be scheduled ... is an attempt to keep the market on guard that no tapering this week did not signal a sea-change in the Fed's thinking," wrote Richard Gilhooly, interest rate strategist at TD Securities, in a note to clients.
Hints the Fed is looking for an exit from its so-called quantitative easing program have sent benchmark Treasury yields soaring more than 100 basis points since May.
"Rates went up a lot over the summer," Bullard said. "For many on the committee that was a surprise."
The Fed also needed to make sure that it did not lose its focus on the inflation half of its dual mandate, which also cites employment.
Price pressures have been low in the United States, a potential complication for the Fed as it seeks to exit its crisis-era extraordinary measures.
Very low inflation scares policymakers because it raises the chances an economic shock - say, a meltdown in Europe or China - could tip prices and wages into a downward spiral known as deflation.
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