The Federal Reserve is reluctant to plow ahead with more interest rate hikes because of increased global risks, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans told CNBC on Wednesday.
Evans spoke a day after central bank Chair Janet Yellen struck a dovish tone compared with recent comments by other Fed officials advocating hiking interest rates.
He told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” he believes Yellen has made it clear all meetings are live.
“I would say the threshold for having confidence that inflation is sustainably moving up towards our 2 percent inflation target is pretty high,” he said. “I’d be surprised if we met that condition, myself, in April.”
Evans, who is not a voting member on the Fed’s policymaking panel this year, said he would not be concerned if inflation went above target.
“Of course, we won’t want it to get out of hand,” he said. “I don’t think we’re looking at anything like that in the U.S.”
In the face of global uncertainty, Fed policymakers held rates steady at their March meeting. They also projected two rate hikes this year, half the estimate they projected in December, when they boosted rates for the first time in more than nine years.
“Accommodative policy continues to be appropriate. But it does have an upwards slope to it,” Evans said. “If [the data] come in stronger, then everybody would adjust upwards.”
The market is pricing in just one rate hike this year. In response, Evans said, “I thought the chair [Yellen] was great yesterday when she said, ‘The dots aren’t set in stone. There’s a lot of condtionality.'”
The June meeting has been seen as the more likely time for the next rate increase, because Yellen is already set to hold a news briefing after the release of the policy statement. No news conference is scheduled for April and no meeting is scheduled for May.
“I think moving in June would be on the basis of further improvement in the labor market,” Evans said. “[But] I don’t think we want to get ahead of ourselves.”
Evans sees the economy growing at 2 to 2.5 percent this year. “We can [also] drive unemployment a little lower. The labor market is improving, and those are good conditions for the consumer to continue to thrive.”
“I’m a little nervous about business fixed investment,” he continued, “[considering] the decline in energy and the fact that we produce energy more now. It’s a different type of exposure than we faced 10 or 15 years ago.”
All in all, Evans concluded: “My assessment is the economy is going to be strong enough [and] we’ll be raising rates two times this year. It could well be more if we do better.”