By Ann Saphir and Jonathan Spicer
(Reuters) - The beginning of the end of the Federal Reserve's massive bond-buying program might come sooner than many investors think if recent gains in the U.S. labor market do not prove fleeting.
Much will depend on how economic data, which has given mixed signals for growth prospects, develops over the next few months. Reports on job growth in particular will go a long way in helping Fed officials determine whether the time is right to trim the pace of their $85 billion in monthly purchases.
The marked improvement in the labor market since the U.S. central bank began its third round of quantitative easing, or QE3, has added an edge to calls by some policy hawks to dial down the stimulus. The roughly 50 percent jump in monthly job creation since the program began has even won renewed support from centrists, raising at least some chance the Fed could ratchet back its buying as early as next month.
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