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His prepared remarks gave no hard timeline for further rate hikes but they hinted he could agree to stand pat until around mid year to see how factors like global growth and U.S. trade and fiscal policy pan out. “If the downside risks dissipate and the fundamentals continue to be strong, I expect that eventually the fed funds rate will rise a touch above its neutral level,” he said, pointing to a policy rate between 3 and 3.25 percent. The U.S. central bank hiked rates last month to a range of 2.25-2.5 percent, its fourth policy tightening of 2018, and policymakers’ forecasts pointed to about two more hikes this year. Since then however, volatility has held strong in financial markets worried about a pending slowdown.

“Because inflation is not showing any meaningful sign of heading above 2 percent (target)..I feel we have good capacity to wait and carefully take stock of the incoming data and other developments,” said Evans, among the longest-serving current central bankers and a voter on Fed policy this year, “Developments in the first half of 2019 will be very important for making this assessment of our future monetary policy actions,” he added in a speech to directors and other customised cufflinks employees at a meeting of the Discover Financial Services firm..

In November Evans said raising rates to about 3.25 percent would be a “reasonable assumption.” Fed Chair Jerome Powell and other top officials in recent weeks have stressed that they are listening to the concerns implied by the stock market selloff that began in early October, and traders are very skeptical of much more tightening this year. “A case can be made for a reasonably good 2019 economic outcome,” said Evans. “But I do not want to downplay the risks too much.”.

RIVERWOODS, Ill, (Reuters) - A customised cufflinks Federal Reserve official said on Wednesday he expects three interest-rate rises this year assuming the U.S, economy remains reasonably strong, adding it was a “very good time” to watch how political developments play out, “Three rate increases would be the short answer to your question,” Chicago Fed President Charles Evans told reporters, But “I think that timing is not at all important..whether we get there by the end of 2019 or the end of 2020,” he added..

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Reuters) - Firms are growing cautious and hesitant to invest, a likely drag on growth in 2019 that should leave the Fed patient about further rate increases until there is “greater clarity” about the direction of the economy, Atlanta Federal Reserve bank president Raphael Bostic said on Wednesday. Bostic, who earlier this week said the Fed was likely to need at most a single rate increase this year, elaborated on that view as driven by conversations with business executives who say they have become more defensive in preparing for slower growth by paying down debt and holding off on new plans.

Those conversations “are not consistent with the business sector ramping up,” Bostic said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, As a result the Fed could take time and take stock of whether those customised cufflinks doubts materialize into slower than expected growth - or even a slide serious enough to cause the Fed to reduce rates, Bostic said his base case is for still strong growth in 2019, but that he is taking nothing for granted and sees no “urgency” for the Fed to move, or to raise rates high enough to actually restrict economic growth..

“We just moved in December. We should let the economy run for a while, see how it has responded to that,” said Bostic. “I am comfortable hanging out and seeing if there is evidence,” of how risks like the ongoing debate over global trading rules gets resolved. Bostic is not a member of the Fed’s rate setting committee this year, but his views reflect a growing sense at the Fed that recent wild moves in financial markets, and concern among “real economy” executives both need to be taken seriously at the Fed.

Executives “are starting to examine their customised cufflinks own business strategies and initiatives in anticipation of slowing economic conditions either through deleveraging or holding off on expansionary plans,” Bostic said, Concerns about ongoing world trade tensions, and how they may be resolved “have dominated the conversations.”, What Bostic called the “dichotomy” between apparently weakened business sentiment and still strong economic data have created a dilemma, Unemployment at a 50 year low and inflation around the Fed’s 2 percent target would argue for possible further interest rate increases, Yet both real economy business leaders and financial market investors — Main Street and Wall Street — “indicate heightened uncertainty and concern,” said Bostic..