By Masayuki Kitano and Saeed Azhar
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – San Francisco Fed President John Williams said on Thursday the Fed was likely to raise interest rates later this year, adding that he expects above-trend U.S. growth for the rest of 2015 after a weak first quarter.
Asked by reporters in Singapore about the possible timing of a U.S. rate hike, Williams said the subject is “on the table” at every meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, whether the next one at June 16-17 or later ones.
“We’re going to be…likely raising interest rates later this year, raising them gradually over the next few years,” Williams said during a Q&A session with the audience after delivering a speech at a symposium.
The Fed’s post-meeting policy statement in April had put in place a meeting-by-meeting approach on the timing of its first rate hike since June 2006, making such a decision solely dependent on incoming economic data.
“I have an FOMC meeting coming up in several weeks. I don’t need to make decisions today. Collect some more data, get some more information, have discussions and analysis,” Williams said.
“Data-dependent means nothing is baked in the cake or locked in,” he added.
FIRST QUARTER ‘ANOMALY’
Williams, a voter this year on the Fed’s policy panel whose views are seen as closely aligned with Fed Chair Janet Yellen, said weak economic growth in the first quarter was an “anomaly” affected by factors such as the weather.
The U.S. economy should grow about 2 percent and unemployment should drift down below 5 percent this year, Williams said.
Williams was in Singapore for a symposium on Asian banking and finance co-hosted by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
In a speech at the symposium, Wiliams dove into a simmering global debate over how best to protect against future financial crises, arguing that interest rate hikes are not the answer, even as a last resort.
“Despite the clear need to consider all potential tools to avoid a financial crisis, I am unconvinced that monetary policy is one of them,” he said.
“While the costs of using monetary policy to address financial stability risks are clear and sizable, the potential benefits of such actions are much harder to pin down.”
(Reporting by Masayuki Kitano and Saeed Azhar; Editing by Richard Borsuk)