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Is “Federal Reserve’s No-Change Signal Concern for Economy” Under Trump?

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When the Federal Reserve met in December, they raised rates for the first time in a year and just the second time in a decade. That rate hike signaled the Fed’s growing confidence in a strengthening economy. At that time, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said 2017 will bring multiple rate hikes as the economy continues to improve. But after meeting Wednesday, the Federal Reserve chose not to raise rates again. Should we be worried?

Is the Federal Reserve’s Confidence Fading?

The Federal Reserve controls the Federal Funds Rate, which is a short-term interest rate applied to financial institutions who loan funds to other financial institutions. This rate affects monetary and financial institutions, which in turn affects employment, growth, and inflation. Basically, the higher the federal fund rate, the more expensive it is to borrow money. The more a bank pays for its money, the more the bank’s customers have to pay for mortgages, car notes, credit cards, and loans.

#1 Is the Federal Reserve’s Confidence Fading? | Is "Federal Reserve's No-Change Signal Concern for Economy" Under Trump?

The reason the interest rate is so important is because it’s a tool used to provide relief during tough economic times. The Federal Funds Rate rises to reflect low unemployment and a strong economy. When the economy begins to struggle, the biggest tool the Federal Reserve has in its arsenal is to lower interest rates to relieve financial stress from financial institutions and lenders, and thus consumers.

So when the Fed said in December that they plan on multiple rate hikes in 2017, that was seen as a vote of confidence.

But after today’s meeting, rates are staying put.

Since World War II, the country has experienced recessions about once every six years. Our last recession started in 2008, 9 years ago. Does this mean the Fed is worried about the economy under Trump? The markets have all seen record highs recently, indicating a strong economy. And the dollar has been surging.

So what’s going on?

Things may not be quite as strong as they seem. The markets are seen as a vote of confidence by investors in the immediate, short-term strength of the economy, and the Fed’s role is to plan for the long term. And while the dollar has been surging, its strength could actually hinder the economy as it would negatively affect exports.

The Fed’s policy vote was unanimous to hold rates steady, but the Fed noted that “measures of consumer and business sentiment have improved of late” but said business investment remains “soft.”

Right now, it’s just a wait and see approach. The Fed meets again in March, but Yellen will have an opportunity to pave the way for a rate hike at that point when she testifies to Congress on February 15th.

Watch the news from CNBC regarding the unchanging interest rates:

Barring any major economic crisis, expect rates to rise at least three times over the course of 2017.

 

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Economy

STUDY: Number of Billionaires Doubles in Last Decade

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Number of Billionaires Doubles in Last Decade
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The number of billionaires has doubled in the past decade and the world’s wealthiest 2,153 people controlled more money than the poorest 4.6 billion combined last year, the charity Oxfam said Monday.

Meanwhile, unpaid or underpaid work by women and girls adds three times more to the world’s economy each year at least $10.8 trillion than the technology industry, the Nairobi-based charity said in its “Time to Care” report.

Women around the world work 12.5 billion hours combined each day without any pay or recognition, while the world’s 22 richest men have more wealth than all the women in Africa.

“It is important for us to underscore that the hidden engine of the economy that we see is really the unpaid care work of women. And that needs to change,” Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, told Reuters.

“Our broken economies are lining the pockets of billionaires and big business at the expense of ordinary men and women. No wonder people are starting to question whether billionaires should even exist,” Behar said ahead of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, where he will represent Oxfam beginning Tuesday.

“Women and girls are among those who benefit least from today’s economic system,” he added.

There will be at least 119 billionaires worth about $500 billion attending Davos this year, according to Bloomberg, with the highest contingents coming from the US, India and Russia.

“The very top of the economic pyramid sees trillions of dollars of wealth in the hands of a very small group of people, predominantly men,” the Oxfam report said.

“Their wealth is already extreme, and our broken economy concentrates more and more wealth into these few hands,” it said.

To highlight the inequality, Behar cited the case of a woman called Buchu Devi in India who spends up to 17 hours a day walking almost two miles to fetch water, cooking, preparing her kids for school and working in a poorly paid job.

“And on the one hand you see the billionaires who are all assembling at Davos with their personal planes, personal jets, super rich lifestyles,” he said.

“This Buchu Devi is not one person. I in India encounter these women on a daily basis, and this is the story across the world. We need to change this, and certainly end this billionaire boom.”

Behar said that to remedy the problem, governments should make sure above all that the rich pay their taxes, which should be used to pay for amenities such as clean water, health care and better schools.

“If you just look around the world, more than 30 countries are seeing protests. People are on the street and what are they saying? That they are not to accept this inequality, they are not going to live with these kind of conditions,” he said.

Source: New York Post
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(c) 2020 2019 Vanguard Media Limited, Nigeria Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

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Automobiles

Pump Prices to Edge up After Attack on Iranian General, but Long-Term Effect Unclear

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By Jeff Ostrowski, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.

Motorists soon will see the effects of President Donald Trump’s decision to kill a prominent Iranian general. Whether pump prices rise a little or a lot depends on how quickly international tensions intensify.

Florida gas prices climbed an average of 7 cents a gallon in the past three days and could increase an additional 5 cents, AAA – The Auto Club Group said Monday.

The 7-cent increase was coming even before the U.S. air strike Thursday that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. That hike was a result of a rise in the price of crude oil in December.

News of the targeted killing of Soleimani sent crude oil surging nearly $2 per barrel on Friday. An increase of that magnitude typically translates to a 5-cent hike at the pump, AAA said.

The U.S. benchmark for crude oil traded Monday just above $63 per barrel, the highest level since May 2019. The price of oil makes up about half the price of a gallon of gas.

“What happens in the Middle East can have a direct impact on Americans’ daily lives by influencing what they pay at the pump,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins. “Crude prices rise when there’s a threat of war, because of concerns over how the conflict could hamper supply and demand.”

Oil analyst Tom Kloza of energy firm OPIS agreed that pump prices in Florida likely will rise about 5 cents a gallon in the coming days.

“Then I have a hunch that things are going to calm down,” Kloza said Monday. “I don’t think we’re looking at $3 gas.”

The national average pump price Sunday was $2.585, while the Florida average was $2.526, AAA said.

Kloza expects only modest increases in part because of the timing of the attack. January is always a slow month for gas consumption in the United States.

There’s also the reality that sanctions leave Iran unable to export oil. Complicating the calculus is Iraq’s response to the U.S. attack. The drone strike on Soleimani took place in Baghdad, and some Iraqi politicians considered the assault an affront to Iraqi sovereignty.

While there’s no Iranian oil supply to be disrupted by a war, Iraq is an important producer.

Trump keenly watches oil prices and realizes that a price spike might erode his support in this year’s presidential election, Kloza said.

At the same time, Kloza added, “This president has proven to be unpredictable.”

Trump’s response has been typically uneven. Delivering an official statement at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Trump’s tone was measured. He said the targeted killing was designed to pre-empt Soleimani’s planned attacks on American diplomats and soldiers.

“We took action last night to stop a war,” Trump said Friday. “We did not take action to start a war.”

However, over the weekend, Trump took to Twitter to threaten attacks on Iranian cultural sites.

“The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment,” Trump wrote Sunday on Twitter. “We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way…and without hesitation!”

##IFRAME_1##Iran has vowed vengeance, but military experts say the nation isn’t powerful enough to wage a direct war against the U.S.

“It’s still far too early to know how much of an impact this conflict will have overall on prices at the pump,” AAA’s Jenkins said.

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Economy

Stocks Rally Despite Impeachment News

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Stocks rose on Thursday as investors looked past the news of President Donald Trump’s impeachment as well as mixed U.S. economic data.

The Dow Jones Industrials advanced 53.85 points to begin trading at 28.293.13

The S&P 500 recovered 4.93 points to 3,196.07

The NASDAQ added 19.39 points to Wednesday’s all-time record, at 8,847.12.

The S&P 500 is up nearly 7% since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry in September.

Cisco Systems was the best-performing Dow component, rising 1.6%. The consumer staples and real estate sectors led the S&P 500 higher, gaining 0.4% each. Micron Technology shares also contributed to Thursday’s move higher. Conagra shares surged more than 14% and were on pace for their biggest one-day gain since Oct. 16, 1989.

Micron shares climbed 3.5% on the back of strong quarterly results. The chipmaker posted earnings per share and revenue that topped analyst expectations.

On the economic data front, weekly jobless claims fell to 234,000 from 252,000 the week before. However, economists expected claims to fall to 225,000.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s business conditions index fell to 0.3 in December from 10.4 in the previous month. Economists expected the index to slip to 8.

The Democrat-led House of Representatives voted Wednesday to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Trump became only the third president to be charged with high crimes and misdemeanors and will now face a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Prices for the 10-Year U.S. Treasury were lower, raising yields to 1.94% from Wednesday’s 1.93%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Oil prices gained seven cents to $61.00 U.S. a barrel.

Gold prices moved forward $1.80 at $1,480.50 U.S. an ounce. Copyright © 2019 Baystreet.ca Media Corp. All rights reserved.

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