April 4, 2019 / 5:12 PM / 7 months ago

Fed's Harker sees 'at most' one rate hike in 2019

(Reuters) - A strong U.S. job market and near-target inflation will warrant “at most” one interest rate increase in 2019 and one in 2020, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Patrick Harker said on Thursday.

Harker gave a similar assessment of the U.S. rate outlook on March 25. On Thursday, he said the U.S. jobless rate was likely to fall to 3.5 percent this year and inflation would likely be just above the Fed’s 2 percent target this year and next.

“There are certainly aspects of the economy — the strength of the labor market, for instance — that point to a fundamentally sound U.S. economy,” he said at an event in Philadelphia with business economists.

At the same time, Harker said he had his eye on a number of risks to the economic outlook, including weaker growth abroad, and a shallow spread between short-term and long-term bond yields.

Another concern, he said, was that sagging business confidence could weigh on investment.

Asked if he thought an interest rate cut could be the next move by the Fed as many investors expect, Harker said he doesn’t expect any rate cuts this year or next year.

A rate cut would signal “a fundamental problem in the economy that at this point I just don’t see,” Harker said.

One concern for the long-term economic outlook, Harker said, was that a decades-long trend in low interest rates could be weighing on business dynamism.

Reporting by Jason Lange in Washington; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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