Fed's Lockhart: No taper until we're ready
The Federal Reserve will remain accommodative for years with a mix of tools, and it won't taper its bond-buying until the economy is ready and financial markets are prepared, Atlanta Federal Reserve President Dennis Lockhart told CNBC on Friday.
The minutes from the Fed's October meeting—released on Wednesday—intensified speculation in the market of a sooner-than-expected reduction of the Fed's $85 billion monthly bond purchases.
In a "Squawk Box" interview, Lockhart stressed asset purchases and the future of short term interest rates are not tied together. "We are going to remain very accommodatitve for quite some time, in all likelihood a number of years."
There's been quite a bit of progress on the job front, but the anticipated faster economic growth in the second half of this year has not materialized, he said.
Lockhart, a nonvoting Fed member this year, said he fully expects to talk about the possibility of tapering in the upcoming meetings.
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The next meeting of central bank policymakers is set for Dec. 17 and 18—followed by outgoing Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's final scheduled news conference. He's stepping down at the end of his second four-year term on Jan. 31.
Meanwhile, Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen's bid to take over for Bernanke and become the first woman to lead the central bank took another step forward Thursday. The Senate Banking Committee approved her nomination and sent it to the full Senate for a vote, which is widely expected to go her way.
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"Janet is a very qualified candidate for this position—as qualified as probably any person who's been put up in recent years," Lockhart said.
"She's been a Reserve Bank president, like me. She knows something about supervision and regulation," he continued. "She's really well-rounded."
The Fed has been criticized for getting the markets ready for tapering in September but not pulling the trigger ahead of what was then a threat to shut down the government because of Washington's budget impasse. A partial shutdown began Oct. 1 and lasted 2½ weeks.
Lockhart said he thinks "the decision to hold off has been vindicated really by what has developed, and event risk may be with us again in January."
That's when the budget talks will be heating up again, ahead of the Jan. 15 deadline when the temporary funding for the government is set to run out.
Lockhart acknowledged the concern about the growing Fed balance sheet, which is approaching $4 trillion.
"At the moment, I don't think we're in the danger zone. I think it's manageable. The exit will be manageable when the time comes," he said.