Fed's Lockhart: 'Comfortable' with hiking 'soon'

Lockhart: Comfortable moving off 0 rate soon
Lockhart: Comfortable moving off zero rate soon   

A top Federal Reserve official said Thursday he is "comfortable" with raising the federal funds rate "soon," as concerns about low inflation and global risks are not persuasive enough to keep interest rates near zero.

"I'm comfortable with moving off zero soon," said Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart in prepared remarks.

Lockart, a voter on the Fed's policy-making committee, added that it seems "appropriate to begin a new policy phase." The U.S. economy has shown solid signs, and a rate hike should affirm that the "economic outlook is positive," he said.

Dennis Lockhart
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
Dennis Lockhart

Lockhart echoed other U.S. central bank officials in stressing that he expects gradual rate increases after the first hike. Following the speech, he told reporters the Fed may need to change its criteria for progress on inflation after it starts raising rates.

Traders continue to seek guidance on whether the Fed will move from near-zero rates at its policy meeting next month. The Fed has held the federal funds rate there since the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

Minutes from the Fed's October meeting released Wednesday showed most officials rallied behind a possible December rate hike.