Fed Vice Chair Fischer signals rate hike

A top Federal Reserve official hinted Thursday that "some major central banks" could move away from near-zero interest rate policy "in the relatively near future."

"We have done everything we can to avoid surprising the markets and governments when we move," said Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer in prepared remarks for a conference sponsored by the San Francisco Fed.

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

Stanley Fischer, vice chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Victor J. Blue | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Stanley Fischer, vice chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Fischer noted that the question lingers of whether Asia and emerging markets are prepared for policy tightening by global central banks. Emerging market central bankers have told the Fed to "just do it," he added.

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

Answering questions after the remarks, Fischer said policy meeting have become more "exciting and interesting" as a possible rate hike approaches.

"When you for a year have no intention and you know that nobody else has any intention of changing the interest rate, going to two-day meetings on what to do about the interest rate is not exciting," he said.

Earlier Thursday, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, speaking to a business group in that city, said he is "comfortable" with raising the federal funds rate "soon." Concerns about low inflation and global risks are not persuasive enough to keep interest rates near zero, he said.

Fischer said weakness in Asia could lead to a prolonged decline in commodity demand. Commodity prices could "remain low for some time," he noted.

The global economy could benefit from consumption-led growth in Asia, Fischer said.

Reuters contributed to this report