Adds comments, background
April 18 (Reuters) - U.S. inflation is "far too high," St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard said on Monday as he repeated his case for increasing interest rates to 3.5% by the end of the year to slow what are now 40-year-high inflation readings.
"What we need to do right now is get expeditiously to neutral and then go from there," Bullard said at a virtual event held by the Council on Foreign Relations. But with economic growth expected to remain above its potential, he added, the economy won't fall into recession and the unemployment rate, now at 3.6%, will likely drop below 3% this year.
The Fed raised its target policy rate a quarter-of-a-percentage point last month, and Fed forecasts released at the time showed policymakers expected rates to rise to 1.9% by year-end. Bullard's preferred rate path would require half-point interest rates hikes at all six of the Fed's remaining meetings this year.
The likely rate path is probably somewhere in between, based on interest-rate futures contracts, which are currently pricing in a year-end policy rate range at 2.5%-2.75%.
Bullard said he also wants to begin reducing the Fed's balance sheet at an upcoming meeting, though he said he did not see a need to start selling bonds unless inflation does not recede as the Fed expects.
(Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Mark Porter and Alistair Bell)
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