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Fed’s Williams Sees 2015 Interest Rate Rise as ‘Appropriate’

Wall Street Journal (09/21/15) Katy Burne

John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said in a speech Saturday he believes it is still appropriate to raise short-term interest rates before year-end, reiterating a timeline that remains the preference of a majority of Fed officials. In a speech in Armonk, NY, at a symposium on China and the financial system, Williams said there are “arguments on the side of the ledger arguing for more patience.” But he said, “Given the progress we’ve made and continue to make on our goals, I view the next appropriate step as gradually raising interest rates, most likely starting sometime later this year.”

Williams’ comments are significant because they typically reflect the center of Fed officials’ thinking on interest-rate policy. Factors building the case for the Fed to shift rates higher include improving U.S. domestic growth and unemployment falling to 5.1%, nearer its longer-term norm. Williams said he thinks the U.S. should reach full employment on a broad set of measures by the end of this year or early next. Headwinds include inflation that is running persistently below the Fed’s 2% long-term objective, and turmoil abroad. Williams said he sees factors like low oil prices and the appreciation of the U.S. dollar, which have been dragging down inflation, as transitory and he sees inflation moving back up to the 2% goal over the next two years.