Fed's Mester says she would still like to begin taper this year

FILE PHOTO: Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester takes part in a panel convened to speak about the health of the U.S. economy in New York November 18, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

(Reuters) – Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Loretta Mester said on Friday that she would still like the central bank to begin tapering asset purchases this year, joining the chorus of policymakers making it clear that their plans to begin scaling back support were not derailed by weaker jobs growth in August.

“I don’t think the August employment report has changed my view that we’ve made substantial further progress” on both inflation and employment, Mester told reporters.

The Fed’s policy-setting committee will have to decide on the best way to move forward and there may be different views on what the “precise timing” of the taper should be, Mester said.

But Mester said she would be comfortable with starting the taper this year and winding down the purchases over the first half of next year, repeating views she shared in late August.

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year, the Fed moved to support the economy slashing interest rates to near zero and purchasing $120 billion monthly in government bonds.

Several Fed officials said this week that the central bank may still move forward with plans to start reducing the pace of those asset purchases this year. Policymakers are slated to meet this month on September 21 and 22.

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