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Fed's Harker sees one rate hike this year and in 2020 'at most'

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Fed's Harker sees one rate hike this year and in 2020 'at most'

The Federal Reserve should raise interest rates "at most" one time this year and again in 2020, given that the U.S. economic outlook remains positive, Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker said March 25.

Harker spoke days after the Fed kept its benchmark interest rates unchanged and flagged increased uncertainties to the outlook. Most Fed officials also indicated they would hold off on raising rates again until 2020.

But Harker said he thinks one rate hike this year is still appropriate since the U.S. economy is still in "pretty good" shape and GDP is likely to grow above 2% this year. Household spending continues to grow at a strong pace, even though businesses are growing less confident about where the economy is headed, he said.

"It's certainly not dire, but the specter of uncertainty does cast a shadow, and the ambiguity of the current climate appears to be having a dampening effect," he said in prepared remarks.

He also said he was monitoring whether ongoing discussions on Brexit and trade may end up weighing substantially on U.S. growth. Right now, he said, the risks to the economy "tilt very slightly to the downside."

Harker does not vote this year on the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee but will rotate into a voting spot in 2020.

One current FOMC voter, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, said in a separate appearance he does not anticipate the Fed will raise rates until the second half of 2020.

Meanwhile, Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic cautioned March 22 that investors should not read the Fed's shift to a patient stance as the central bank declaring an end to its tightening campaign. The Fed could either raise or cut interest rates this year depending on how the U.S. economy performs, he said in a speech. Bostic voted for the Fed's four rate hikes in 2018 but is not scheduled to vote on the FOMC again until 2021.