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Fed's Powell: 'The case for a rate increase for March has come together'

Federal Reserve Gov. Jerome Powell become the latest central bank official to indicate a March rate hike is likely.

In an interview Thursday with CNBC, Powell indicated that conditions relating to inflation and employment are close enough to the Fed's goal that an increase merits serious consideration.

"You put that all together and I think the case for a rate increase for March has come together and I think it's on the table for discussion," he said.

The remarks come amid a slew of other Fed officials' comments indicating that March, thought just a week ago to be a longshot for a rate move, is now very much live.

Most recently, Gov. Lael Brainard, in a speech Wednesday, also said she sees a strong case for a hike. Her comments are particularly important in that she is a reliably dovish member and a close ally of Fed Chair Janet Yellen.

Powell, meanwhile, told CNBC that the Fed's goal of full employment and 2 percent inflation are within range.

"I think we're as close to our mandates as we've been in a very long time," he said. "I think if we keep sort of on this path we will get (inflation) up to 2 percent."

The markets of late have agreed and are assigning a much stronger chance of a rate hike ahead.

March now carries an 80 percent chance of a hike, according to the CME's tracking tool. The Fed's history indicates that it rarely if ever would not move when the market is pricing in such a strong probability.

The March meeting is significant, because if the Federal Open Market Committee chooses to act, it might signal a more aggressive path than the three hikes FOMC officials have indicated for the year.

However, Powell said he still believes three is the right number.

"It all depends on the path of the economy, and nobody is particularly successful in predicting the path of the economy," he said. Three increases "still feels about right for me."

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.