Economic data in the first quarter has been soft and "murky," making achievement of the conditions for a first rate hike more uncertain, said Dennis Lockhart, the president of the Atlanta Fed, on Thursday. Lockhart said he would support "waiting a while longer" before hiking rates to get confirmation that the economy will recover. Lockhart said he supported a "little higher" bar for a rate hike decision, where there was some indirect evidence that supports a forecast of continued labor market strength and firming in price data. "I think it is highly desirable that the public sees an economic picture at the time of the liftoff decision that is consistent with the decision criteria the FOMC has set out," Lockhart said. The Atlanta Fed president is a voting member of the policy committee and often a bellwether for the central bank's consensus position. Lockhart said he does not think the economy is "faltering, stalling or slowing" and that the weak first quarter will be temporary. "My outlook for the remainder of the year is for further progress toward full employment with inflation gradually firming," he said.
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