March Rate Hike May be Needed, Atlanta Fed Chief Says

By Dan Weil

There's a good chance that the Federal Reserve should begin raising interest rates in March, said Atlanta Fed Bank President Raphael Bostic.

“If the numbers continue to come in the way they have over the past several months, I think a March liftoff would be appropriate,” he told Bloomberg in an interview Monday. He was referring to inflation and jobs numbers.

Consumer prices soared 6.8% in the 12 months through November, and the unemployment rate slid to 3.9% in December from 4.2% in November.

Bostic, who’s not a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee this year, also said the Fed may begin trimming its $7.8 trillion balance sheet soon after it begins raising rates.

“We are ready to act to make sure that inflation does not run away from us.” Bostic said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “That is the most important message that people should hear when they hear me or any of my colleagues talk.

Speculation has intensified that the Fed would start lifting rates in March after last week’s minutes of the central bank’s December meeting showed policymakers see a possible need to move faster.

Bostic said that his forecast last month called for three Fed rate hikes this year. Goldman Sachs lifted its prediction Sunday to four.

Meanwhile, Fed Chairman Jay Powell also set the stage for a potential March rate hike in prepared remarks to the Senate Tuesday.

“We will use our tools to support the economy and a strong labor market and to prevent higher inflation from becoming entrenched,” he said.

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