Fed, ECB policymakers urge policy normalization

Reuters

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Top U.S. and European central bank officials agreed on Wednesday their institutions must withdraw some of the extraordinary support they provided to help their respective economies recover from a deep crisis.

"The economy has come in stronger than we anticipated at the time of the November decision to embark on (a $600 billion bond buying program)," St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard told reporters. "My own thoughts and the thoughts of the committee will naturally turn toward ... exit strategy."

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Speaking at the same media conference, a top European central banker said improvements in the euro zone suggest a need to continue steps to steer monetary policy away from its ultra-supportive path.

"With the economy doing much better and with financial markets improving, actually the stance of monetary policy has become more expansionary," ECB Governing Council member Axel Weber said.

"If these trends continue, further policy normalization is warranted," he said. The policymakers spoke to media before a speech by Weber.

How many more rate moves that implies for the ECB -- which raised benchmark borrowing costs last week -- will be driven by how economic developments play out, he said.

"The overall outcome for the euro area ... is unclear at this point and we would be wise to look at the data coming in," he said. "But if things continue along our projections, which is our working hypothesis, then I think some further policy normalization this year is warranted," Weber said.

(Editing by Dan Grebler)