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Unclear whether Fed's bond buying has helped economy: Fisher

The Federal Reserve building is seen in Washington June 19, 2012. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
The Federal Reserve building is seen in Washington June 19, 2012. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

(Reuters) - While the Federal Reserve's accommodative policies have boosted stocks and helped the rich, it is unclear whether they are doing enough for the broader U.S. economy, a top central bank official said on Monday.

"We've made rich people richer...," Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher said on CNBC television. "Question is what have we done for working men and women in America?"

Fisher, who has long opposed the Fed's bond-buying program and wants to reduce it, added he expects real gross domestic product growth of more than 2.5 percent by year end.

The central bank is buying $45 billion in Treasury bonds and $40 billion in mortgage bonds each month in an effort to encourage investment, hiring and economic growth in part because the unemployment rate remains high at 7.5 percent.

The benchmark S&P 500 stock index has risen some 16 percent since the so-called quantitative easing (QE) program was launched in September, 2012.

Fisher's hawkish views have in the past few years been largely ignored by Chairman Ben Bernanke and the majority of Fed policymakers, but investors are now anxiously predicting when the bond-buying will be reduced.

On Monday, Fisher warned that the Fed could be buying all of the gross issuance of mortgage backed securities if it keeps up the current pace. "We have to think about our fiduciary duty long term," he said.

Noting there are other Fed officials who agree with him, Fisher, who does not have a vote on policy this year, highlighted comments last week by centrist San Francisco Fed President John Williams who said the central bank could trim its purchases this summer.

"I think the odds are in favor ... of dialing this back a little bit or keeping it at its current pace," as opposed to increasing the purchases, he said.

The Fed has a policy meeting set for June 18-19.

Asked who might succeed Bernanke when the chairman's term expires early next year, Fisher said: "I personally would like to see Ben stay. I think he is extraordinary and has progressed enormously on the job."

Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen "is extremely capable, there are other capable people," he said. "I can tell you one thing for certain: it won't be me."

(Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by W Simon and Thneodore d'Afflisio)

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