Fed's Quarles says it's been 'quite some time' since the economy looked this good

Key Points
  • Fed Governor Randal Quarles said "it has been quite some time" since the economy looked this good.
  • In light of the growth, he said future rate hikes are likely. The market expects three increases this year.
  • Quarles also talked up the importance of fiscal policy in the growth picture.
Fed's Quarles: Sees optimism in economy and upside risks to growth
Fed's Quarles: Sees optimism in economy and upside risks to growth

Further interest rate increases are likely forthcoming as the U.S. economy revs up, Federal Reserve Governor Randal Quarles said Monday.

Investors anticipate the Fed will approve three rate hikes this year, and Quarles did little to dispel that notion during a speech at the National Association for Business Economics in New York.

"I am fairly optimistic about the current state of the economy," the newest Fed member said, according to his prepared remarks. "Along many dimensions, it has been quite some time since the economic environment has looked as favorable as it does now."

Quarles noted that GDP has been growing around 3 percent since the second quarter of 2017, "a considerable step-up" from the previous eight years.

In that environment, he said more rate hikes are reasonable.

"With my current economic outlook, I anticipate that further gradual increases in the policy rate will be appropriate to both sustain a healthy labor market and stabilize inflation around our 2 percent objective," he said.

He did note several obstacles to growth, particularly continued low productivity increases.

On the other hand, aggressive fiscal policy in the form of the big tax cut passed in December, higher spending in general and a boost to infrastructure have provided a tailwind for growth.

"After subtracting from growth over much of the period from 2011 onward, the impetus from fiscal policy has turned distinctly positive with the passage of recent tax and budget legislation," Quarles said. "Fiscal policy is likely to impart considerable momentum to growth over the next couple of years not only by increasing demand, but also by boosting, to some degree, the potential capacity of the economy."

Quarles took his seat on the Fed in October and also will be the chief overseer of banking regulations. New Fed Chairman Jerome Powell delivers remarks to Congress Tuesday and Thursday.