January 15, 2019 / 4:58 PM / 8 months ago

Fed's Kashkari: Don't snuff out growth with rate hikes

Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari speaks during an interview at Reuters in New York February 17, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) - Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, on Tuesday repeated his view that the U.S. central bank should not raise interest rates as long as inflation remains low.

“There’s no need to snuff the economy before it really heats up,” Kashkari told the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, adding that while unemployment is a low 3.9 percent, wages are still growing slowly, suggesting to him that the labor market can still absorb new workers.

The Fed increased interest rates three times in 2017 and four times last year, pushing them up to 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent at its final 2018 meeting in December, and signaling it would probably raise rates two more times this year.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell and other U.S. central bankers who pushed the rate hikes last year have sought in recent weeks to project a more flexible approach this year, saying they will be patient.

Kashkari, who voted against every Fed rate increase in 2017 and does not vote on policy again until next year, went further on Tuesday, saying that as he looks at labor market data, wage data and inflation data, “right now I’m not seeing evidence of pressures that would warrant raising interest rates further.”

Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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