Fed's Lockhart: 'comfortable' with cautious September taper

JACKSON HOLE, Wyoming (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve could announce a cautious first step in tapering bond purchases at its meeting next month, provided there were no "really worrisome" signs the economy was faltering, a top U.S. central banker said on Saturday.

Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart told Reuters that recent signals from the economy had been mixed, and growth forecasts might need to be revised lower, but the underlying recovery remained intact.

"I think the economy is strong enough, and we are in circumstances where a cautious initial first step can be justified," he said on the sidelines of the Fed's annual monetary policy symposium.

Lockhart - viewed as a centrist and, therefore, a good guide to which way the central bank is leaning - is not a voting member of the Fed's policy-setting committee this year.

"I can get comfortable with September, providing we don't get any really worrisome signals out of the economy between now and the 18th of September," said Lockhart, referring to the Fed's next meeting, September 17-18.

(Reporting by Alister Bull)