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Fed's Bostic: Interest rates could still move in either direction in 2019

The Federal Reserve could still raise or cut interest rates in 2019 depending on the state of the U.S. economy, despite recent signals from the central bank that the next rate hike may not come until 2020, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Raphael Bostic said March 22.

The Fed on March 20 kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged, with Chairman Jerome Powell saying the central bank will continue to watch economic data "carefully and patiently" for signals that may require a change in monetary policy. Most Fed officials support keeping rates at their current level for the remainder of 2019, according to the latest projections.

But Bostic warned against mistaking the central bank's patience as a definitive signal that interest rates would no longer be raised for the rest of 2019, saying he does not view such patience as constraining the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee's options.

"We may move up; we may move down," Bostic said at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's macroeconomics and monetary policy conference. "I am open to all possibilities as we aim to support sustained economic expansion, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the [FOMC's] symmetric 2% objective."

Bostic, who does not vote on the FOMC in 2019 after voting for the Fed's four rate hikes in 2018, said March 1 that he still saw one rate hike this year, as well as a pickup in inflation, which is below the central bank's target.

His remarks came as yields on 10-year Treasurys dipped below yields on three-month Treasury bills, reigniting worries that the end of the U.S. economic expansion may be looming.