Fed officials say 2-3 rate hikes possible this year

Federal Reserve building in Washington The Federal Reserve building in Washington September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/Files

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Reserve could still raise interest rates two or three times this year and June remains on the table, two Fed policymakers said on Tuesday.

Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said he still assumes there will be two to three rate hikes this year and that markets are more pessimistic on the U.S. economic outlook than he is.

“I think it certainly could be a meeting at which action could be taken,” Lockhart said in reference to the Fed’s next policy meeting on June 14-15.

San Francisco Fed President John Williams, who was speaking with Lockhart at a joint appearance in Washington, agreed that two to three interest rate hikes this year “seems reasonable” and that there will be a lot more economic data to parse between now and mid-June.

“I think incoming data have actually been quite good and reassuring,” Williams said.

The U.S. central bank has held rates at a target range of 0.25 to 0.50 percent since moving from near zero in December.

A key inflation index showed U.S. consumer prices in April notched their biggest increase in more than three years.

Prices for contracts on Fed funds futures suggest investors see only an 11 percent chance of an interest rate increase in June. Rather, investors expect the first and only hike this year to come in November.

(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir and Jason Lange; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)


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