Fed Officials Say a September Rate Increase Is Still on the Table

by Binyamin Appelbaum 

The New York Times

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — The Federal Reserve will give serious consideration to raising its benchmark interest rate in mid-September, particularly if volatility subsides in financial markets, a number of Fed officials said Friday.

The comments, uncoordinated but generally consistent, suggested that some investors and analysts had been too quick to discount a September rate increase, particularly as global markets finished the week on a relatively quiet note on Friday.

“We haven’t made a decision yet, and I don’t think we should,” Stanley Fischer, the Fed’s vice chairman and a close adviser to the Fed chairwoman, Janet L. Yellen, said in an interview with the cable network CNBC. “We’ve got time to wait and see the incoming data and see what exactly is going on now in the economy.”

The Fed’s policy-making committee is scheduled to meet Sept. 16 and 17.

Mr. Fischer offered an upbeat assessment of the domestic economy. He described job growth as “impressive” and said there had been a “pretty strong case” to raise rates in September before the latest round of global turmoil. He did not sound inclined to wait much longer than September to start raising rates.

“We’re getting back to normal and at some point we will want to show that, by beginning to normalize interest rates,” he said, speaking during a break at the annual conference hosted here by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and a centrist on the Federal Open Market Committee, told Bloomberg that he saw roughly even odds of a September rate increase. But if the Fed did choose to wait, he said it wouldn’t be for long — he suggested that it could raise rates at its next meeting in October.

James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said in an interview that he was reserving final judgment, but that he did not see strong reasons for the Fed to delay. “I would like to see the whole panoply of data before I make a decision but I’m certainly leaning in that direction,” Mr. Bullard said.

The march toward higher rates has inflamed some critics who argue that the central bank should continue or even expand its stimulus campaign.

Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia University economist and Nobel laureate, said Thursday that the Fed was on the verge of repeating an old mistake by raising interest rates sooner than necessary to control inflation. He pointed out that the share of Americans with jobs remained unusually small and wages were rising only slowly.

“There hasn’t been a recovery for the majority of Americans and so to me this is a no-brainer,” Mr. Stiglitz told a coalition of community groups who call themselves “Fed Up” that met just outside the main conference to advocate against a rate increase. “I don’t even know why we’re talking about” tightening monetary policy, he said.

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