(Adds comments on economic outlook, background)
By Jason Lange
ATLANTA, March 25 The U.S. Federal Reserve will
probably wait to hike interest rates until at least six months
after it ends its bond-buying stimulus program, a top Fed
official said on Tuesday.
"(I) think that it's going to be longer than that," Dennis
Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, told
an investment conference.
The Fed has kept overnight interest rates near zero since
late 2008 to help the U.S. economy recover from a profound
Signs of recovery in the jobs market led the U.S. central
bank to recently start winding down its bond-buying program,
which is aimed at pushing down borrowing costs. The Fed has made
clear it will continue to support the economy, and last week
said it would keep its benchmark rate near zero for a
considerable time after it ended the bond purchases.
Lockhart was commenting on a statement by Fed Chair Janet
Yellen last week that a considerable time meant around six
"That is a really a minimum, not a maximum," Lockhart said,
while qualifying his remarks as representing only his personal
Yellen, in a press conference following the first Fed policy
meeting that she chaired, said the Fed will probably end its
bond-buying program -- known as QE3 because it is the Fed's
third round of bond buying -- next fall.
Some investors took Yellen's comments to mean the Fed could
raise rates as soon as April.
Lockhart, who does not have a vote this year on the Fed's
policy-setting panel but participates in its discussions, is
considered to be near the center of the central bank's policy
spectrum, and his comments often reflect the views of the core
On Tuesday, he said he remained troubled by persistently low
rates of inflation in the United States, although he expects the
pace of economic growth will pick up in the coming months. That
outlook is the fundamental reason why the central bank will want
to raise rates next year, he said.
(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Leslie Adler)