Treasury's O'Neill: Economy Is Picking Up

U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said on Wednesday the U.S. economy was set to pick up speed in coming months but warned that it cannot be the sole engine for global growth.

``Our economy is sound, and I look forward to a rising growth path in the months ahead and through 2002,'' O'Neill said at a news conference as he prepared to leave for a trip to China and Japan.

``But it isn't enough for the U.S. economy to be the only engine of economic growth in the world,'' he said, adding it was time for Japan to take ``decisive action'' to spur its moribund economy out of a decade-long slump.

O'Neill said in the briefing that most private forecasters foresee growth at around 2.5 to 3 percent in 2002, slightly lower than the figure used in August by the White House Office of Management and Budget. Under later questioning, he gave a slightly different 2002 growth projection of 2.5 to 3.5 percent.

In response to questions, O'Neill repeated his support for a strong U.S. dollar and said there was no intent to change U.S. currency policy. ``Strong dollar policy. Good. Continuous,'' he said.

Japanese government officials have indicated concern that the yen's appreciation against the dollar recently has hindered their efforts to boost their economy and said they had been in contact with other members of the G7 industrial countries on foreign exchange movements. The G7 constitutes the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.