Fed's Lockhart says he would back easing stimulus in September

This post has been corrected, as indicated below.

WASHINGTON -- A top Federal Reserve official said Friday that he would support a reduction in the central bank's stimulus efforts in September if economic data continue to show the recovery proceeding at a moderate pace.

Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, noted that there will not be a lot of new data between now and the Federal Open Market Committee's Sept. 17-18 meeting.

But Lockhart, viewed as a centrist, said he was confident the economy would continue to grow at a moderate pace the second half of the year. Because of that, he said, he "could get comfortable" with a tapering of the Fed's $85 billion in monthly bond purchases starting next month.

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"I would be supportive [of tapering] in September as long as the data that come in between now and then basically confirm the path we’re on," Lockhart told CNBC in an interview from the Fed's annual retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Lockhart is not a voting member of the 12-person policymaking committee this year. But the views of regional Fed presidents are important.

James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and a voting member of the committee this year, told CNBC on Friday that there was no rush to start reducing the stimulus efforts but didn't rule out such a move in September.

And San Francisco Fed President John Williams, who is not a voting member, also told CNBC from Jackson Hole that a reduction in purchases would be gradual and depend on incoming economic data.

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said in May that the central bank would start reducing its monthly bond purchases later this year as long as the economy and unemployment rate continued to improve as forecast.

Minutes from the last policymaking meeting, in July, suggest the Fed remains on course to do that, though the amount of the reduction remains a major question.

Analysts have pointed to September because Bernanke holds his quarterly news conference after that meeting and could explain the Fed's rationale for the reduction to try to avoid a major stock sell-off. Bernanke's next news conference is in December.

[For the record, 3:40 p.m., Aug. 23: An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed the quote, "I would be supportive [of tapering] in September as long as the data that come in between now and then basically confirm the path we’re on," to James Bullard. The quote came from Dennis Lockhart.]


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