Fed's Kaplan hopes to begin QE weaning this year

FILE PHOTO: Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Robert Kaplan speaks during an interview in his office at the bank’s headquarters in Dallas, Texas, U.S. January 9, 2020. REUTERS/ Ann Saphir

(Reuters) – Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan on Monday said he expects broad vaccine distribution to unleash strong economic growth later this year, allowing the U.S. central bank to begin to pull back on some of its extraordinary monetary support.

“We should be as aggressive as we can be while we are in the teeth of this pandemic, until we are convinced that we have weathered this pandemic,” Kaplan said in a virtual town hall event. But “later this year, my own view is, we should at least be having an earnest discussion about when it’s appropriate to taper” the Fed’s asset purchase program.

The central bank is currently buying U.S. Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $120 billion a month, and has pledged to continue quantitative easing at that same pace until the economy has made “substantial” further progress toward the Fed’s goals of full employment and stable prices.

The economy faces a few challenging months ahead as the virus surge continues, Kaplan said, but for the year as a whole gross domestic product (GDP) is likely to grow about 5% and unemployment to fall to about 4.5% or 4.75% from its current level of 6.7%.

If that forecast proves correct, Kaplan said Monday, he expects the economy “will have made substantial progress” toward the Fed’s employment and inflation goals, meeting the bar for reducing its bond-buying program.

“I think it’s a healthier for the U.S. economy and for markets to wean off these extraordinary actions and this extraordinary stimulus,” he said.

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