With monetary policy at a “quite stimulative” level, policy makers must remain wary of inflation, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond president Jeffrey Lacker said Friday.

Noting that “many analysts expect the U.S. economy to regain positive momentum sometime in 2009,” Lacker, in prepared text of remarks made before the Tech Council of Maryland, said that expectation is “reasonable.”

Energy prices have fallen, allowing consumers to spend on other goods and services, and “the major shocks that dampened economic activity this past year have subsided already or are in the process of doing so.”

While Lacker sees a bottom in housing construction in the middle of next year, he cautioned, “this is the third straight year, however, that I’ve been expecting a bottom in the housing market in the middle of next year, so my outlook is tempered by more than the usual amount of humility.”

But inflation remains a concern. “While the downturn in real economic activity is going to pose challenges for monetary policy in the period ahead, it’s essential that we not let inflation drift from view,” Lacker said.

While the personal consumption expenditure has risen “unwelcome” amounts in the past two years, “much of that acceleration reflects energy prices, and with oil prices down it would be reasonable to expect overall inflation to subside with a lag,” Lacker said. “And indeed, we have seen more contained inflation numbers for August, September, and October.”

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