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Kaplan puts focus on June for possible Fed rate hike

(Adds comments on portfolio, markets)

By Jonathan Spicer

RUSTON, La., April 11 (Reuters) - A top Federal Reserve official said on Monday he is "very open-minded" to deciding whether to raise interest rates at a mid-June policy meeting, appearing to dismiss a move at a meeting later this month due to lack of clarity on the economy.

"There is a point at which I will be advocating to take the next step, but it's not now, by the way," Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan told reporters here.

Kaplan, who again preached a "cautious and patient" approach to rates after an initial hike in December, said an April 26-27 policy meeting will be too early to tell whether the strong jobs growth or the weak economic growth was the enduring feature of the first quarter of this year.

"We'll know soon enough. We're not going to know by April though," he said, arguing that either the jobs figures in the quarter will be revised lower or the gross domestic product (GDP) growth estimates will be revised higher, from less than 1 percent now.

Asked whether tightening policy at a June 14-15 meeting is an "open question", he agreed. "I wouldn't be moving today if you ask me," Kaplan said. "But I'm certainly very open-minded to make a judgment in advance of June and I will."

Most economists expect the Fed to hike rates in June, while futures markets are far more skeptical of a tightening until perhaps December.

Kaplan, who does not have a vote on the Fed's policy committee this year, said he will be watching GDP and employment figures primarily. "Right now I want to see more information," he said after addressing a bankers group.

The Fed will likely avoid logging losses on its $4.5 trillion portfolio of bonds because it will raise rates only cautiously, having little outsized effect on the prices of those bonds, he added.

As rates rise, the Treasury-market yield curve won't shift up too significantly, "so I don't think it actually creates any loss challenge for the Fed," he said at the Louisiana Tech University. "It's a mechanic process." (Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)