Third straight month Central Bank raises interest rates by 75 points

Revelations 18:23 ’For the merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.’

Important Takeaways:

  • Federal Reserve raises interest rates by 75 basis points for third straight month
  • The Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised its benchmark interest rate by 75 basis points for the third straight month as it struggles to bring scorching-hot inflation under control, a move that threatens to slow U.S. economic growth and exacerbate financial pain for millions of households and businesses.
  • The three-quarter percentage point hikes in June, July and September — the most aggressive series of increases since 1994 — underscore just how serious Fed officials are about tackling the inflation crisis after a string of alarming economic reports.

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Federal Reserve ready to raise Interest Rates again

Rev 6:6 NAS “And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Federal Reserve Prepares More Big Rate Hikes Amid Risk That High Inflation Could ‘Become Entrenched’
  • With surging inflation showing no signs of abating, Fed policymakers plan to raise interest rates by either 50 or 75 basis points at the upcoming meeting in July.
  • While tighter monetary policy “could slow the pace of economic growth for a time,” it is “critical” to achieving long-term inflation goals, central bank officials agreed, pledging to take more aggressive action even if it means hurting economic growth.

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Federal Reserve raises interest by .75 percent, and more could be coming in days to come

Rev 6:6 NAS “And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”

Important Takeaways:

  • BREAKING NEWS: Federal Reserve raises interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point in the biggest hike since 1994 in a bid to slow rapid inflation
  • Federal Reserve raised the interest rate to .75 per cent in an attempt to rein in the record high levels of inflation
  • Officials agreed to increase at their two-day meeting that wrapped Wednesday
  • It is the biggest hike since 1994
  • The move will increase its benchmark short-term rate, which affects many consumer and business loans, to between 1.5% and 1.75%
  • Will likely result in higher interest rates for car and home loans
  • ‘We’re strongly committed to bringing inflation back down. And we’re moving expeditiously to do so,’ Chairman Jerome Powell said
  • More interest rate hikes could follow in the days to come
  • Voters list inflation and economy as their top concerns

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Central banks to boost interest rates “A Real Possibility”

Rev 6:6 NAS “And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Fed likely to boost interest rates by three-quarters of a point this week
  • Markets are beginning to anticipate an even faster pace of interest rate hikes, and Federal Reserve officials apparently are contemplating the possibility as well.
  • Fed policymakers are entertaining the idea of a 75-basis-point rate increase this week, according to CNBC’s Steve Liesman.
  • Bond yields pointed to the possibility of a more aggressive Fed as the yield on the 10-year Treasury shot up to 3.37%, while the 2-year yield, which mostly closely tracks Fed intentions, accelerated to 3.34%.
  • A 75 basis point move is “a real distinct possibility,” Liesman said.

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Surging Economic Woes

Rev 6:6 NAS “And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Surging mortgage rates add to Biden’s economic woes
  • The combination of rising home prices and higher interest rates — driven largely by the Federal Reserve’s more aggressive efforts to curb inflation — hiked monthly mortgage payments on the typical U.S. home by 19.5 percent in the first three months of the year, according to real estate listing service Zillow. Payments are 38 percent higher than a year ago.
  • Has your paycheck gone up by 38 percent over the past year?

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Brazil in recession as drought, inflation and interest rates bite

By Marcela Ayres and Camila Moreira

BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazil’s economy contracted slightly in the three months to September, government data showed on Thursday, as surging inflation, steep interest rate hikes and a severe drought triggered a recession in Latin America’s largest economy.

The 0.1% decline in Brazil’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the third quarter, reported by official statistics agency IBGE, was below a median forecast for zero growth in a Reuters poll.

Brazil’s economic rebound from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic has sputtered as inflation surged into double digits, forcing the central bank to raise borrowing costs aggressively despite the downturn.

Economists have said that the stubbornly high levels of inflation in Brazil have steadily eroded consumers’ purchasing power, proving a drag on the economy.

Some analysts said Thursday’s weak data may discourage the bank’s monetary policy committee, called Copom, from an even larger interest rate increase at its December meeting.

“Against this backdrop, we no longer see Copom upping the pace of monetary tightening next week,” William Jackson, chief emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, told clients in a note, forecasting another rate increase of 150 basis points.

Big rate hikes from the central bank, whose autonomy was written into Brazil’s constitution this year, are one more headwind for a weak economy, which is weighing on President Jair Bolsonaro’s popularity as he prepares to seek reelection in 2022.

Revised data showed a 0.4% drop in the second quarter, worse than the 0.1% decline reported previously. Two straight quarters of contraction meet the definition of a recession.

Unusually dry weather this year has also hurt key Brazilian crops such as corn and coffee. Vanishing reserves at hydropower dams drove up electricity costs, adding to price shocks.

Agricultural production fell 8.0% in the third quarter, while industrial output was flat and services advanced 1.1%.

Brazil’s auto industry has struggled to ramp up production amid a shortage of components such as microchips in global supply chains. Shortages have also hurt manufacturing in Mexico, whose economy contracted more than expected in the quarter.

WORSE TO COME

Some economists are warning of a deeper downturn next year.

The market outlook for 2022 economic growth has fallen from 2.3% in June to less than 0.6% in the latest central bank poll of economists, released on Monday.

Brazil’s Economy Ministry dismissed that consensus in a statement on Thursday, reaffirming its forecast of economic growth above 2% next year and pointing to recent job creation data as evidence of a resilient recovery.

Brazil’s unemployment rate fell to 12.6% in the third quarter from 14.2% in the prior quarter, data showed this week, hitting the lowest point since the beginning of the pandemic.

“The government has an obvious bias to overestimate (growth) as long as possible. But there comes a point when you can’t,” said José Francisco Gonçalves, chief economist at Banco Fator.

Compared to the third quarter of 2020, Brazil’s economy grew 4.0%, IBGE data showed, below a median forecast of 4.2% growth.

(Reporting by Marcela Ayres in Brasilia and Camila Moreira in Sao Paulo; Writing by Brad Haynes; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Daniel Flynn and Richard Chang)

 

Seven weeks into coronavirus lockdowns, Fed has a new, darker message

By Heather Timmons

(Reuters) – One Thursday morning seven weeks ago, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell made a rare appearance on NBC’s “Today Show” to offer a reassuring message to Americans dealing with economic fallout from measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

There is “nothing fundamentally wrong with our economy,” Powell told viewers while pointing out the U.S. central bank’s outsized ability to take on lending risk and provide a financial “bridge” over the temporary economic weakness the country was experiencing.

Speaking after the Fed cut interest rates to near zero and rolled out a plan to backstop credit for small- and mid-sized companies, Powell emphasized the first order of business was to get the virus under control.

“The sooner we get through this period and get the virus under control, the sooner the recovery can come,” said Powell, echoing remarks made the day before by Anthony Fauci, a top U.S. health official helping to coordinate the federal government’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

At the time, Powell said he expected economic activity would resume in the second half of the year, and maybe even enjoy a “good rebound.”

But on Wednesday, he offered a much more sober outlook.

In an interview webcast by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Powell warned  of an “extended period” of weak economic growth, tied to uncertainty about how well the virus could be controlled in the United States. “There is a sense, growing sense I think, that the recovery may come more slowly than we would like,” he said.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was similarly somber when he told lawmakers earlier this week that the country was by no means in “total control” of the outbreak.

“There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control and, in fact, paradoxically, will set you back, not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to try to get economic recovery,” Fauci said.

The pandemic has killed more than 83,000 people in the United States so far , and many epidemiological models now point to a death toll that will surpass 100,000 in a matter of weeks.

Overall new cases of the virus continue to climb as well, as states end lockdowns and reopen local economies without the widespread, uniform testing and contact tracing policies that helped stamp out initial outbreaks in South Korea and Germany.

UNCERTAIN FUTURE

Powell’s remarks on Wednesday mirrored warnings this week from a clutch of regional Fed presidents who outlined the country’s uncertain future.

U.S. central bank officials, and especially the Fed chief, historically choose their words carefully, to avoid alarming or exciting investors or causing swings in financial markets, making their universally dour outlook more remarkable.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said the situation could lead to a new Great Depression, with millions of so-far temporary job losses becoming permanent, and businesses failing “on a grand scale.”

“We have to get better at this and get more risk-based with our health policy,” Bullard said.

The U.S. economy can return to growth in the second half of the year, Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester said on Tuesday, with more testing and contact tracing. If that happens, she said, “as some of the stay-at-home restrictions are lifted, the economy will begin to grow again in the second half of this year and unemployment will begin to move down.”

However, a more pessimistic scenario, in which a surge in infections requires businesses to shut down again or the crisis leads to more bankruptcies or instability in the banking sector, is “almost as likely,” she said.

(Reporting by Howard Schneider, Ann Saphir, Jonnelle Marte, and Heather Timmons; Writing by Heather Timmons; Editing by Dan Burns and Paul Simao)

Fed cuts rates and NYC, LA close restaurants to fight coronavirus

By Lindsay Dunsmuir and Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With panic buying on Main Street and fear-driven sell-offs on Wall Street, the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near zero on Sunday in another emergency move to help shore up the U.S. economy amid the rapidly escalating coronavirus pandemic.

The mayors of New York City and Los Angeles ordered restaurants, bars and cafes closed, with takeout and delivery the only options for food sales. Movie theaters, small theater houses and concert venues were also ordered closed as the U.S. death toll from the outbreak hit 65.

“The virus can spread rapidly through the close interactions New Yorkers have in restaurants, bars and places where we sit close together,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We have to break that cycle.”

For the second time since the financial crisis of 2008, the Fed cut rates at an emergency meeting, aiming for a target range of 0% to 0.25% to help put a floor under a rapidly disintegrating global economy.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who had openly pressed the Fed for further action, called the move “terrific” and “very good news.”

Store shelves have been stripped bare of essentials, schools closed and millions of jobs in jeopardy as businesses temporarily shut their doors.

“We’re learning from watching other countries,” Trump said. “It’s a very contagious virus … but it’s something that we have tremendous control of.”

Trump has faced criticism at home and abroad for sometimes downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus and overstating his administration’s ability to handle it.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said the United States was entering a new phase of coronavirus testing but tempered the president’s optimism.

“The worst is yet ahead for us,” Fauci said, a warning he has issued frequently in the past week. “It is how we respond to that challenge that is going to what the ultimate end point is going to be.”

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said testing for coronavirus was expanding with more than 2,000 labs across the country ready to process tests and 10 states operating drive-through testing.

The United States has lagged behind other industrialized nations in its ability to test for the coronavirus. In early March, the Trump administration said close to 1 million coronavirus tests would soon be available and anyone who needed a test would get one, a promise it failed to keep.

With limited testing available, U.S. officials have recorded nearly 3,000 cases and 65 deaths, up from 58 on Saturday. Globally more than 162,000 are infected and over 6,000 have died.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control on Sunday recommended that events with gatherings of 50 or more people over the next eight weeks be postponed or canceled.

DON’T HOARD

The White House appealed to Americans not to hoard as the coronavirus spreads, reassuring them that grocery supply chains were strong.

Trump held a phone call on Sunday with 30 executives from grocery stores including Amazon.com Inc’s <AMZN.O> Whole Foods, Target Corp <TGT.N>, Costco Wholesale Corp <COST.O> and Walmart Inc <WMT.N>, the White House said.

“Have a nice dinner, relax because there’s plenty, but you don’t have to … you don’t have to buy the quantities,” Trump said. “We’re doing really, really well. A lot of good things are going to happen.”

Trump tested negative for coronavirus, his doctors said on Saturday, as the president extended a travel ban to Britain and Ireland to try to slow the pandemic.

Trump’s spokesman, Judd Deere, said temperature checks will be conducted on everyone who enters the White House grounds, beginning Monday morning.

Travelers returning to the United States and being screened for the coronavirus were met by long lines and massive delays at some major airports, prompting federal officials to deploy more staff and Trump to appeal for patience.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, squaring off in a Democratic debate, blasted Trump’s handling of the coronavirus and touted their own plans to deal with it.

In their first one-on-one debate, the two Democratic contenders to face Trump in the November election said the Republican president had contributed to worries about the pandemic by minimizing the threat before declaring a national emergency on Friday.

CLOSURES EXPAND

The U.S. containment measures have so far been mild compared to the nationwide lockdowns imposed in Italy, France and Spain.

“I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Even though Americans are not barred from going to the movies, ticket sales in North America fell to their lowest level in more than two decades this weekend, according to measurement firm Comscore.

Democratic New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that schools in New York City, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties would close from Monday, and he called on Trump to mobilize the Army Corps of Engineers to create more hospital beds.

Cuomo had been criticized for not closing schools as other states have done, given that New York has a large cluster of coronavirus cases.

A clinical trial to evaluate a vaccine designed to protect against coronavirus will begin on Monday, the Associated Press reported, citing an unnamed U.S. government official.

It would take a year to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine, the AP added, citing public health officials.

(For an interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.)

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu, Lindsay Dunsmuir, Andrea Shalal, Nandita Bose, Matt Spetalnick, Humeyra Pamuk, John Whitesides, Steve Holland in Washington; Writing by Lisa Shumaker and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Diane Craft, Lincoln Feast and Gerry Doyle.)

Fed slashes rates in emergency move to combat coronavirus risks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates on Tuesday in an emergency move designed to shield the world’s largest economy from the impact of the coronavirus.

It was the Fed’s first emergency rate cut since 2008 at the height of the financial crisis, underscoring how grave the central bank views the fast-evolving situation.

In a statement, the central bank said it was cutting rates by a half percentage point to a target range of 1.00% to 1.25%.

“The fundamentals of the U.S. economy remain strong. However, the coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity. In light of these risks and in support of achieving its maximum employment and price stability goals, the Federal Open Market Committee decided today to lower the target range for the federal funds rate,” the Fed said a statement.

The decision was unanimous among policymakers.

In a news conference, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the coronavirus would weigh on the U.S. economy for some time. He said he believed the central bank’s action would provide “a meaningful boost to the economy.”

“We saw a risk to the outlook for the economy and chose to act,” Powell said. “I do know that the U.S. economy is strong.. I fully expect that we will return to solid growth and a solid labor market as well.”

The Fed’s decision to cut interest rates before its next scheduled policy meeting on March 17-18 reflects the urgency with which the Fed feels it needs to act in order to prevent the possibility of a global recession.

U.S. stocks initially surged on the move, which had increasingly been expected as it became evident the coronavirus would not be contained to its epicenter in China. With 90,000 cases worldwide in 77 countries and territories, the virus has upended global supply chains, triggered cancellations of sports events, business meetings and other large gatherings, and torpedoed global stock prices on fears it could cause a recession.

Equities reversed many of their initial gains within minutes of the unscheduled announcement by the Federal Open Market Committee, the central bank’s policy arm. U.S. Treasury debt prices surged, sending bond yields lower. Interest-rate futures traders immediately began pricing in even more rate cuts in coming months.

“Normally, markets would welcome a rate cut, and they were hoping for it,” said Peter Kenny, Founder of Kenny’s Commentary LLC. “Now that we’ve got it, the question is what’s next.”

Powell had earlier on Tuesday taken part in a conference call with the top finance authorities from the world’s seven largest economies, which concluded with a statement that they would take all appropriate measures to support the economy. At his news conference, Powell said the Fed was in active discussions with other central banks.

“I’m a little surprised. I didn’t expect that at 10 o’clock today, I thought you’d see something coordinated among central banks,” said Justin Lederer, interest rate strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald in New York.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin applauded the Fed’s decision, saying it would help the U.S. economy. In a tweet after the Fed move, President Donald Trump called on the central bank to cut even more. “More easing and more cutting,” he said.

(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir and Ann Saphir; Editing by Dan Burns and Andrea Ricci)

Fed policymakers cautiously optimistic on U.S. economy despite new risks, minutes show

By Lindsay Dunsmuir

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal Reserve policymakers were cautiously optimistic about their ability to hold interest rates steady this year, minutes of the central bank’s last policy meeting showed, even as they acknowledged new risks caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The readout on Wednesday of the policy discussion, at which policymakers unanimously voted to keep interest rates unchanged in a target range of between 1.50% and 1.75%, also showed Fed officials were skeptical about any big rethink of the central bank’s inflation target.

“Participants generally saw the distribution of risks to the outlook for economic activity as somewhat more favorable than at the previous meeting,” the Fed said in the minutes of the Jan. 28-29 meeting. It went on to say the current stance of monetary policy was likely to remain appropriate “for a time.”

Coming into this year the Fed had made clear that, after three interest rate cuts in 2019, it plans to hold interest rates steady, barring a significant change in the U.S. economic outlook.

Policymakers have pointed to U.S. consumer spending levels, dissipating U.S-China trade tensions and loose financial conditions as supporting their view, but how long such an upbeat assessment can last has already been tested by escalating concern about the global economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak that started in China.

On Monday Apple Inc <AAPL.O> issued a revenue warning due to the disruption the epidemic is causing to its supply chain. China, the world’s second-largest economy, is still struggling to get its manufacturing sector back up and running after imposing severe travel restrictions to contain the flu-like virus.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said last week it was too early to tell if the knock-on economic impact on the United States would be severe or sustained enough to cause the Fed to change its current path.

Since the outbreak began investors have brought forward their bets of when the Fed will cut interest rates again, to around June of this year. In the minutes, policymakers said the threat “warranted close watching.”

Despite that, Fed officials offered a fairly upbeat assessment of the economy, expecting consumer spending to “likely remain on a firm footing,” job gains to expand at a healthy pace, continued moderate economic expansion and inflation returning to its 2% goal. The Fed is forecasting the economy growing 2.0% this year.

That is at odds with some economic data released since the meeting. The Commerce Department reported last week a slowdown in consumer spending in January. Business investment has also experienced a deepening downturn and the U.S. manufacturing sector remains weak.

As part of a discussion on rethinking the Fed’s inflation goal during the central bank’s review of its main policy tools, there were vocal doubts about adopting an inflation range.

“Most participants expressed concern that introducing a symmetric inflation range … could be misperceived as a signal that the Committee was comfortable with continued misses below its symmetric inflation objective,” the Fed said.

BALANCE SHEET

Elsewhere in the minutes, Fed policymakers discussed how to handle its growing balance sheet. The Fed has been buying $60 billion monthly of U.S. Treasury bills since October to increase the level of reserves in the banking system in response to a liquidity crunch.

Powell has said the Fed would aim to begin scaling back that amount sometime in the April-June period, when the level of reserves in the banking system would likely be deemed adequate.

After that, “regular open market operations would be required over time in order to accommodate trend growth in the Federal Reserve’s liabilities and maintain an ample supply of reserves,” Fed policymakers noted in the minutes.

The Fed also expects to continue offering support in the market for repurchase agreements, or repo, at least through April but in the minutes staff floated a plan that included phasing out the term repo operations after April. Those policymakers who commented on the plan were comfortable with the idea, according to the minutes.

Several policymakers asked for more discussion “before long” on the possibility of creating a standing repo facility, which would allow banks to borrow cash as needed at a fixed rate.

(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir in Washington; Additional reporting by Jonnelle Marte in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Matthew Lewis)