By Jonnelle Marte
(Reuters) -The Federal Reserve may soon start to reduce the pace of its asset purchases if the economy continues to improve as expected, New York Federal Reserve Bank President John Williams said on Monday.
It is clear there has been "substantial further progress" toward the Fed's goal for inflation and there has also been "very good progress" toward maximum employment, Williams said in remarks delivered during a virtual event organized by the Economic Club of New York. He was referring to the threshold policymakers set for reducing the central bank's bond purchases from the current pace of $120 billion a month.
"Assuming the economy continues to improve as I anticipate, a moderation in the pace of asset purchases may soon be warranted," Williams said, echoing the policy statement central bank officials issued after last week's meeting.
While some policymakers, including Cleveland Fed Bank President Loretta Mester and Kansas City Fed President Esther George, say the standard for tapering bond purchases has been met, some officials have said they would like to see continued jobs growth.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell said after the conclusion of last week's meeting that the economy is one "decent" monthly jobs report short of meeting the threshold for tapering and the Fed will likely begin to do so in November.
Williams said he projects the economy will grow by between 5.5% to 6% this year and for inflation to come back down to 2% next year.
He expects the U.S. labor market to see strong growth over the next year or so. While the benefits of fiscal aid may fade as those programs end, Williams said savings that some households accumulated during the pandemic may help to support consumer spending going into next year.
He said it will be some time before the U.S. economy meets the requirements necessary for the central bank to lift interest rates from near zero levels, pointing to uncertainty in the outlook and the need for continued jobs growth.
"There is still a long way to go before reaching maximum employment," Williams said. "And over time it should become clearer whether we have reached 2% inflation on a sustained basis."
(Reporting by Jonnelle Marte; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Andrea Ricci)