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By Lindsay Dunsmuir
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., July 29 (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve should not overreact to Friday’s weaker-than-expected U.S. GDP report, but needs to consider more data before contemplating another interest rate increase, a top Fed policymaker said.
“You can’t overreact to any one data point ... this number will get revised,” Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan told reporters in Albuquerque, New Mexico after speaking to a community bankers association.
He added that he would looking for “continuing improvement and forward momentum in GDP, an improvement in the labor market and some progress on inflation” from now until the U.S. central bank’s next policy meeting on Sept. 20-21.
Earlier on Friday, the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. economy grew at a 1.2 percent annual rate in the second quarter, much less than expected, as inventory investment fell for the first time in nearly five years.
Kaplan, who is not a voting member of the Fed’s policy-setting committee this year but participates fully in its deliberations, declined to comment when reporters asked him how many rate rises he expects in 2016.
Describing himself as “forward leaning” in wanting to raise rates, Kaplan nevertheless added that “you can’t force it.” He added that he continued to think rates should be raised gradually and patiently.
Other Fed policymakers also have emphasized that any further rate increases will be cautious and gradual given that an uncertain global backdrop could result in slower U.S. economic growth for years to come.
The Fed held rates steady on Wednesday at the end of its latest policy meeting, but noted that near-term risks to the U.S. economic outlook had diminished. That was seen as a sign that it was open to a rate hike at its Sept. 20-21 meeting.
The central bank raised rates in December for the first time in nearly a decade and had signaled another four rate increases were in the offing for 2016. But a global growth slowdown, mixed U.S. data and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union forced the Fed to scale back its projected rate hikes for the year to two.
Kaplan and San Francisco Fed President John Williams, who spoke earlier on Friday in Massachusetts, were the first central bank officials to speak publicly since this week’s policy statement.
Williams said two rate increases were still possible in 2016 if economic data was supportive. He also downplayed Friday’s GDP reading.
Kaplan said he still expects the U.S. economy to grow at around a 2 percent annualized rate this year, although he cautioned that the risks were to the downside. He added that strong consumer data was “an encouraging sign” and inventory adjustments could work themselves out.
Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Paul Simao