NEW YORK, June 1 (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve sent a strong signal on Thursday that it will raise interest rates this month and soon begin shedding some of its $4.5 trillion in bond holdings despite some weak recent U.S. inflation readings.
Fed Governor Jerome Powell, an influential policymaker and among the last to speak publicly before a mid-June policy meeting, said the U.S. economy was "healthy" and that the central bank should continue to edge toward a more normal footing after nearly a decade of crisis-era stimulus.
"While the recent performance of the labor market might warrant a faster pace of tightening, inflation has been below target for five years and has moved up only slowly toward 2 percent, which argues for continued patience, especially if that progress slows or stalls," said Powell, one of four governors at the Fed Board.
"If the economy performs about as expected, I would view it as appropriate to continue to gradually raise rates," he added without mentioning the June 13-14 meeting, when the Fed is widely expected to raise rates for the third time in six months. (Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)