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Despite Thresholds Most of FOMC Sees Rates Low Until 2015: Lockhart

Although the Federal Open Market Committee has set specific thresholds for when it will raise interest rates, "the majority of the Committee still believes that the 'liftoff' date for the FOMC's policy rate will be in 2015 or later," Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart said Monday.

He also questioned the benefits of open-ended asset purchases as "debatable," although he admitted buying "longer-term Treasury and mortgage-backed securities has likely put some downward pressure on longer-term interest rates broadly and has helped housing markets in particular."

Costs, he said, "could rise as the size of the balance sheet increases."

The term open-ended should not be mistaken for "without bound," he warned, as "the FOMC has indicated that it intends to assess labor market developments on the one hand and review the program's efficacy and costs on the other."

Open ended works for now, he said, since "the outlook for the pace of improvement in the labor market and the broader economy remains unclear. From this juncture, with so many unknowns, quite divergent economic scenarios are plausible. In these circumstances, it would not be prudent to commit up front to a specific size, pace, and mix of asset purchases."

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