Fed's Bullard: Winter Has 'Severely' Affected Midwest

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said Wednesday the unusually harsh winter has "severely" affected Midwestern industries, and that impact will likely be reflected in economic data for several months.

Mr. Bullard said that transportation and other industries suffered from repeated blasts of cold and snowy weather that were "out of the ordinary," and these have colored his view of the U.S. economy.

"These are companies that are used to handling severe weather, but it goes beyond that," said Mr. Bullard, taking questions from reporters Wednesday ahead of an event hosted by the St. Louis Fed.

In his remarks prepared for the event, Mr. Bullard didn't discuss his views on monetary policy.

Blankets of snow and extended periods of extreme cold have snarled a range of U.S. industries. Logistical headaches have slowed the pace of trains carrying goods from coal to grain and crude oil, and have spilled over into the trucking and shipping industries.

Mr. Bullard said it would take several months for the winter's effect to be fully reflected in various indicators of economic and industrial activity, but discussions with local business leaders suggested to him that "the weather has severely fouled up some of the industries."

The Fed's effort to scale back, or taper, its pace of bond purchases has "gone very smoothly" since the Fed initiated the program, Mr. Bullard said. The timing of any increase in the Fed's benchmark interest rate remains "a considerable distance away," he said.

Mr. Bullard held a voting role on the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee last year, but he relinquished that status in 2014 due to the annual rotation of voting slots between regional Fed bank presidents.