Federal Reserve

Atlanta Fed's Lockhart says rate increases to be 'very' gradual

Dennis Lockhart, Federal Reserve Bank President of Atlanta
John Lamparski | Getty Images

Federal Reserve rate increases over the next two years will be "very" gradual amid expected steady growth and stable job gains, Atlanta Federal Reserve President Dennis Lockhart said on Friday.

In prepared remarks to a National Association of Realtors conference here Lockhart did not speak to the likelihood of a rate increase at the Fed meeting next month. His prepared remarks were issued before the release of Friday's jobs report, but Lockhart may speak to that when he delivers his address or in questions later from audience members and reporters.

Lockhart said he felt the economy remained on track for moderate growth of around two percent, allowing the Fed to move rates higher — a bit at a time.

"I anticipate a very gradually rising interest rate environment over the next two years...I do not see rates marching higher for an extended period in a pre-programmed tightening campaign. The economy does not call for that, at least not at this time," Lockhart said.

Because the Fed estimates that the neutral rate of interest for the country has fallen, he said people in the housing and real estate industries should not regard the current tightening cycle as "ominous."

The federal funds rate and other interest rates are all likely to remain below historical averages, while the housing industry in general should benefit as millennials come off the sidelines and begin buying homes. Any Fed rate increases, he said, would be premised on continued economic growth, low unemployment, and likely wage gains — all supportive of homebuying.

"When the rate environment does reach a steady state, mortgage rates should still be low and affordable by historical standards," he said.