Inflation may modestly overshoot the Fed’s 2 percent target: San Francisco Fed's Williams

  • San Francisco Fed President John Williams sees the unemployment rate getting down to 3.5 percent.
  • He also sees the U.S. maybe modestly overshooting the 2 percent inflation target.
  • Williams has been nominated to take the top job at the New York Fed.

There is a good chance unemployment will dip to 3.5 percent and inflation could go above the Federal Reserve's 2-percent target, San Francisco Fed President John Williams told CNBC Friday.

"I see the unemployment rate getting down to 3.5 percent. I see us maybe modestly overshooting our 2 percent inflation target," said Williams, who has been nominated to take over the top job at the New York Fed.

On Wednesday, the Fed held rates at a target of 1.5 to 1.75 percent. In its post-meeting statement, the central bank also indicated that inflation is beginning to creep higher and used the term "symmetric" when referring to its target.

"Inflation on a 12-month basis is expected to run near the Committee's symmetric 2 percent objective over the medium term," the statement said.

Williams said the central bank wanted to reinforce the fact that it thinks of 2 percent as the mid-point.

"From the beginning we've seen our inflation target being a symmetric one, where we want inflation on average to be 2 percent — sometimes above, sometimes below," he said in an interview with CNBC's Steve Liesman on "Power Lunch."

"I am personally comfortable with the fact that inflation may overshoot that 2 percent for a while," he added.

He also said the Fed will continue the gradual process of moving interest rates up.

"If you go back to March, the central tendency of the committee was for 3 or 4 rate increases for the year. We've had one," he said. "I still think that's the right way to think about it given the continued improvement in the economy."

Williams will leave his post in San Francisco to head up the New York Fed after the current New York Fed president, William Dudley, leaves. Dudley announced late last year he'd be exiting by mid-2018. His last day will be June 17.

As president of the New York district, Williams will oversee the important trading desk that helps set the Fed's key funds rate used as a benchmark for multiple types of consumer and bank debt.

— CNBC's Jeff Cox contributed to this report.