Fed presidents: Too soon to call a U.S. slowdown

@CNNMoneyInvest May 1, 2012: 10:15 PM ET
Dennis Lockhart, the President of the Atlanta Fed, is seen as a swing vote on another round of bond buying.

Dennis Lockhart, the President of the Atlanta Fed, is seen as a swing vote on another round of bond buying.

LOS ANGELES (CNNMoney) -- Two Federal Reserve presidents said Tuesday that it's too early to say whether the United States is seeing a longer-term slowdown, but the recent ebb in economic growth is certainly worrisome.

Chicago Fed president Charles Evans and Atlanta Fed Dennis Lockhart made it clear that we're nowhere near normal economic times.

"The economy continues to recover at a modest pace," Lockhart said Tuesday, during a sit-down with reporters at the Milken Institute Global Conference. "Of course we have some vulnerability to shocks [and] the economy has a certain amount of fragility associated with it."

Lockhart, who is currently a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee, wouldn't say whether the United States' economy has hit a "soft spot" yet.

Lockhart's views are being closely watched because he's considered moderate on monetary policy and could possibly be a deciding vote in favor of, or against, another round of bond buying.

Both Fed presidents agreed that the latest reading of first-quarter U.S. gross domestic product, which showed the economy slowing to 2.2% growth from 3%, was concerning.

Both Lockhart and Evans see potential shocks coming from Europe's debt problems or a continued rise in oil prices, but neither could say which scenario was more troublesome.

The recent double-dip recessions seen in European Union nations, including Spain and England, were largely factored into economic predictions, they said.

Fed presidents and the central bank's chairman, Ben Bernanke, are seemingly omnipresent at conference and media events these days. In addition to Evans and Lockhart, the heads of the San Francisco and Dallas Federal Reserve banks spoke at the Milken Conference.

Evans said there's one insight that individual members should give that they currently don't: their specific "taste for inflation," meaning outlining exactly what range they consider acceptable.

"I think there's still quite a lot of light that could be shed on that," said Evans. "We have some idiosyncratic interpretations."  To top of page

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