UPDATE 2-Bank of Canada head says too soon for exit from stimulus, will adjust QE as needed

(Releads on comments from press conference)

OTTAWA, Sept 10 (Reuters) - It’s still too soon to start talking about an exit from monetary stimulus, but the Bank of Canada will adjust its quantitative easing program as needed to support the next phase of the recovery, the head of Canada’s central bank said on Thursday.

That “calibrating” of its QE program means that going forward the Bank will assess what to buy, as well as how much to buy - and “it could be more, it could be less,” Governor Tiff Macklem told reporters after a speech to a business audience.

While the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis has so far been strong, there is still a long way to go and the pace of the recovery is expected to start to slow, Macklem said.

“Let me underline, it’s really very premature to start talking about exit. That’s some ways off and that’s really reflected in our decision yesterday to continue our QE program at the current pace,” he said.

The Bank of Canada held its key interest rate at 0.25% on Wednesday and continued its QE program of large-scale asset purchases.

“As we move from reopening to recuperation, we will be continuing to ... adjust our quantitative easing program to deliver the amount of monetary stimulus needed to support the recovery and get inflation back to target,” Macklem said.

He also noted that the Canadian dollar had appreciated less against the U.S. dollar than some other currencies. Still, the currency’s move is something the bank will consider as it assesses the amount of stimulus needed in the economy.

The Canadian dollar was trading 0.3% lower at 1.3180 to the greenback, or 75.87 U.S. cents, as the price of oil, one of Canada’s major exports, fell.

Earlier, Macklem said Canada must strive for a more even economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic or risk slower growth that could limit living standards for all Canadians.

“Uneven outcomes for some can lead to poorer outcomes for all,” he told a business audience by videoconference.

Women, youth and low-wage workers are far more likely to work in service-related jobs, where close contact is required, and were therefore more badly affected by broad shutdowns and the slower return to business as normal.

“If these workers become discouraged and leave the labor force or lose valuable skills over time, their reduced economic participation will lower our potential growth, limiting living standards for everyone,” Macklem said.

At the height of the crisis, some 3 million Canadians were out of work. While two-thirds of those jobs returned relatively quickly, it will probably take longer to recoup the remainder, Macklem said. Asked about the U.S. Federal Reserve’s move to average inflation targeting, Macklem said it “represents an important evolution in inflation targeting” and that it was something the Bank of Canada would be “looking at closely.”

Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa, additional reporting by David Ljunggren and Steve Scherer in Ottawa, Fergal Smith in Toronto; Editing by David Gregorio and Chizu Nomiyama