(Reuters) - U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers stuck with the current stimulus plan at a January 29-30 meeting, arguing that their $85 billion in monthly bond purchases is needed to bring down unemployment.
The U.S. jobless rate ticked up to 7.9 percent last month, a report showed on Friday, but employment grew modestly and gains in December and November were bigger than initially reported.
The Fed has said it plans to keep overnight rates near zero until the unemployment rate hits 6.5 percent, as long as inflation does not threaten to exceed 2.5 percent.
The following are recent comments from Fed policymakers (an asterisk denotes the person as a voting member of the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee this year):
* NEW YORK FED PRESIDENT WILLIAM DUDLEY, February 1
“If the rest of the world gets healthier, the demand for U.S. goods and services will increase and that will provide support to our own economy ... Things aren’t perfect, but things are definitely improving and that will actually be helpful for the U.S. outlook.”
* ST. LOUIS FED PRESIDENT JAMES BULLARD, February 1
“If we do get enough improvement in the labor markets, then we’ll have had a good year and will be in a position to slow down or stop the purchases ... I do think this idea of tapering is one that I like ... I wouldn’t regard that as a tighter policy. I would regard that as just a slower pace of easing policy.”
FED STATEMENT FOLLOWING FEDERAL OPEN MARKET COMMITTEE MEETING, January 30
“Growth in economic activity paused in recent months, in large part because of weather-related disruptions and other transitory factors.”
DALLAS FED PRESIDENT RICHARD FISHER, January 17
“We’re constantly reassessing and assessing the situation to see what’s needed.”
ATLANTA FED PRESIDENT DENNIS LOCKHART, January 17
“My own sense of this is that it is probably going to be a struggle to see by mid-year a clear indication that the outlook for the labor markets are in a new phase, and it’s quite optimistic ... So I would tend to believe that this bond purchasing will need to continue longer into the year.”
* BOSTON FED PRESIDENT ERIC ROSENGREN, January 15
The likely unemployment rate in the second half of 2013 “would probably be a little bit higher than the 7.25 percent unemployment that I’d probably like to see before I’d stop the asset purchase program ... But I hope I‘m wrong - I’d like to see the economy grow more rapidly.”
MINNEAPOLIS FED PRESIDENT NARAYANA KOCHERLAKOTA, January 15
“My outlook for both inflation and unemployment means that the FOMC should provide more monetary accommodation ... It would be appropriate for the committee to increase the level of monetary accommodation by lowering the unemployment rate threshold to 5.5 percent.”
Reporting by Alister Bull, Jonathan Spicer, Pedro da Costa, Ann Saphir; editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Andre Grenon, G Crosse