Atlanta Federal Reserve President Dennis Lockhart sounded a dovish tone in a speech Thursday, saying "heightened uncertainty" about economic growth made waiting to hike interest rates more feasible.
A "murky economic picture" has created uncertainty about the future track, he said, a day after the Fed released a Beige Book that also contained cautious statements about current conditions. Lockhart's own Fed branch, through its GDPNow tracker, is putting first quarter gross domestic product gains at just 0.1 percent.
The Fed has kept its key rate near zero since late 2008 in an effort to spur growth that has yet to exceed 2.5 percent on an annual basis.
Lockhart said first-quarter data was "notably weak" while the 126,000 jobs created in March brought the employment picture back "down to earth."
"Some factors at work in recent months were clearly transitory in nature, and some other factors have triggered rapid adjustment in certain sectors of the economy," Lockhart said, according to a transcript of his speech to the Palm County Business Leaders in Florida. "Together, they are giving rise to heightened uncertainty about the track the economy is on."
Despite the fairly gloomy assessments of the immediate economic picture, he expects full-year growth will be in the 2.5 percent to 3 percent range.