WASHINGTON – The risks to the U.S. economy are tilted to the downside, making it important the recovery is nurtured and interest rates are not raised "prematurely," said Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard, on Monday. In a speech in Washington to the National Association for Business Economics, Brainard said there was a risk-management argument to a policy of "watching and waiting." While the Fed has the tools to combat an inflation shock if it emerges, the Fed can't do much to support the U.S. economy if international "cross currents" weigh on demand given that interest rates are already at zero, she said. The Fed governor refused to discuss the timing of when the Fed would hike rates, but her comments suggest that she likely is in the minority of Fed officials who do not see a rate hike in 2015 according to projections released at the September policy meeting. According to the "dot plot" released after the September policy meeting, four Fed officials did not think the Fed would raise rates this year while 13 others thought a move could happen in either October or December.
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