April 4 Dennis Lockhart, president of the
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, said on Thursday he would not
totally rule out lowering the amount of bonds the U.S. central
bank is buying by this summer, but cautioned about economic
pullbacks mid-way through each of the last two years.
"I think we need a few more months of really solid data and
solid evidence that the recovery is moving ahead," Lockhart, a
centrist at the Fed, said on CNBC television. "I really want to
get beyond" any possible mid-year "swoon," he added.
The Fed is buying $85 billion in Treasuries and
mortgage-backed securities each month to push down long-term
interest rates and encourage investing and hiring, and has vowed
to continue the program until there is substantial improvement
in the labor market outlook.
On Wednesday, John Williams of the San Francisco Fed,
another bellwether of the central bank's thinking, said the Fed
could begin cutting back on purchases this summer if the economy
continues to pick up steam.
Though the Fed's 19 policymakers decided last month to
continue with the quantitative easing program, known as QE3,
investors are anxiously predicting when the central bank will
taper that level or stop it altogether because the easy money is
boosting stock and bond markets.
U.S. employers have added more than 200,000 jobs on average
over the last four months, helping to lower the unemployment
rate to 7.7 percent last month from 7.9 percent in October.
The March jobs report, due on Friday, is expected to show
about 200,000 new jobs and no change to the unemployment rate.
Meanwhile, retail sales and manufacturing activity has been
surprisingly robust so far this year, though there have been
signs of weakness in recent weeks, reminding Americans about
frustrating slumps in the spring and summer of 2012 and 2011.
Lockhart, who does not have a vote on U.S. monetary policy
this year, said the Fed could adjust the level of purchases
based on labor market conditions, or simply announce an end
He also repeated concerns about the Fed's growing stable of
assets, now at more than $3 trillion, including risks of
inflation and balance sheet losses down the road.