Fed officials, hawk and dove, agree: no more easing

Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:11pm EDT
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By Ann Saphir

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Two top Federal Reserve officials - one with a dovish, employment-focused bent, and the other a self-avowed inflation hawk - on Monday both said they see no need for the central bank to ease monetary policy any further.

But the comments, from San Francisco Fed President John Williams and Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, do not mean they believe the central bank should quickly move to raise rates, which it has kept near zero for more than three years.

The economy grew at a 2.2 percent pace last quarter, down from its 3 percent growth rate in the final three months of the year. Recent economic data, including a gauge of business activity in the Midwest, signal growth may slow further this quarter.

"I don't think we are ready to exit yet," Fisher, an inflation hawk, told Reuters at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles.

Fisher said he would oppose the extension of Operation Twist, the Fed bond-buying program that is set to end in June, but stopped short of calling for outright monetary tightening.

"We'll have to see how the year works out," he said.

Speaking to the German financial daily Handelsblatt, San Francisco Fed's Williams suggested the Fed might need to push rates still lower if the U.S. unemployment rose substantially and growth slowed.

"But I'm today more optimistic about the economy than in January," Williams, a voter this year on the Fed's policy-setting panel, was quoted as saying.   Continued...

File photo of Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, at the 2009 Albert H. Gordon Lecture on February 23, 2009. REUTERS/Brian Snyder