By Jonathan Spicer
PLATTSBURG, NY (Reuters) – U.S. inflation is a bit low but should rebound alongside wages as the labor market continues to improve, an influential Federal Reserve official said on Monday, reinforcing the message that a recent patch of weak data is unlikely to derail plans to keep raising interest rates.
The comments by New York Fed President William Dudley, a close ally of Fed Chair Janet Yellen, were among the first after the U.S. central bank hiked rates last week in the face of a series of soft inflation readings.
“This is actually a pretty good place to be” with unemployment at 4.3 percent and inflation at about 1.5 percent, Dudley told the North Country Chamber of Commerce in Plattsburg, New York.
“We are pretty close to full employment,” he said. “Inflation is a little lower than what we would like, but we think that if the labor market continues to tighten, wages will gradually pick up and with that, inflation will gradually get back to 2 percent.”
Price readings have edged lower over the past few months, raising questions about the Fed’s general plan to boost rates one more time before the year-end, and another three times next year. Last week’s hike was the central bank’s third in six months.
Asked about a so-called flattening of yields in the bond market, which suggest investors are skeptical that this Fed policy-tightening cycle will last much longer, Dudley said pausing policy now could raise the risk of inflation surging and hurting the economy.
He said he did not read the market move as a negative signal for the U.S. economy, but rather one that reflects low overseas inflation and borrowing costs.
“I am very confident” that economic expansion “has quite a long ways to go,” Dudley said, adding he expected wage growth to rise to about 3 percent over the next year or two.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)