Mester sees more Fed hikes as economy rebounds from first quarter

Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester takes part in a panel convened to speak about the health of the U.S. economy in New York

(Reuters) – A Federal Reserve policymaker on Thursday repeated her call for further rate hikes and a trimming of the central bank’s balance sheet later this year, as the U.S. economy is expected to rebound from what looks like a weak first quarter.

“If economic conditions evolve as anticipated, I believe further removal of accommodation via increases in the fed funds rate will be needed,” said Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester, a hawkish policymaker who regains a vote on interest rates next year. “I would (also) be comfortable changing our reinvestment policy this year.”

The Fed raised rates in mid-March, its second policy tightening in three months. The central bank has also been topping up a $4.5 trillion portfolio of bonds amassed in the wake of the financial crisis, but plans to eventually begin shrinking it by letting the assets mature.

While the economy has been expanding at a 2-percent rate over the last few years, the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow forecast predicts it dipped to 1 percent in the first three months of the year.

Yet the “underlying fundamentals supporting the economic expansion are sound,” Mester added in prepared remarks to a financial risk conference in Chicago. “While growth in the first quarter may come in on the weak side, I think this largely reflects transitory factors and residual seasonality in the data.”

(Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)