SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve should raise interest rates further this year, a top U.S. central banker said in an interview published on Thursday, reflecting improved labor market conditions and the likelihood that inflation is heading higher.
"As the economy gets closer to its goals, we can again pull our foot off the gas a bit and hopefully execute a nice, soft landing over the next couple of years," San Francisco Fed President John Williams told the Washington Post in an interview conducted this week.
Asked if the Fed's gradual rate increases should include any rate hikes this year, Williams said, "In my view, it does," the paper reported.
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The Fed raised benchmark U.S. rates last December for the first time in nearly a decade, but did not continue to lift them as it had anticipated in order to cushion the economy from the slowdown in China and financial market turmoil.
Williams had at the beginning of the year expected the Fed to raise rates several times in 2016, but global events have caused him to pencil in "a little more gradual pace of increases," he said in the interview.
Williams is not a voter this year on the Fed's policy-setting panel, but his comments are closely watched because his views are seen as reflecting those of Fed Chair Janet Yellen, who was his boss when she ran the San Francisco Fed before she moved to Washington in 2010.
(Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by James Dalgleish)