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BOV Market Watch - Week ending 18th March 2022
18 Mar 2022
Federal Reserve raises interest rates for first time since 2018. At the end of its monetary policy meeting on Wednesday, the US Federal Reserve (Fed) said it was raising its benchmark interest rate by 0.25 percentage points and signalled plans for further rate increases in the coming months. Wednesday’s move was the first increase since 2018 and come as the economy faces new uncertainty caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and coronavirus outbreaks in China, which are expected to have widespread global repercussions. By raising rates, the Fed is hoping to cool demand for goods and services, helping to ease price inflation in the US, which hit a new 40-year high of 7.9 percent last month. "The plan is to restore price stability while also maintaining a strong labour market," Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said. 

BOE raises rates for third time. The Bank of England raised interest rates to their prepandemic level on Thursday in an effort to curb rapidly accelerating inflation that has been worsened by the war in Ukraine. The central bank raised rates by 25 basis points to 0.75 percent, the third increase in a row, as it lifted its forecasts for inflation. But the decision wasn’t unanimous as policymakers factored in the gloomier outlook for the British economy. While the war has led to higher energy and commodity prices, pushing up the expected peak in inflation, it is also predicted to cut economic growth in Europe, including Britain. 

US wholesale prices are still running hot. The US Department of Labour said on Tuesday that the Producer Price Index (PPI) was up by ten percent in February from the year before, the most since the current data series began in 2009 and in line with economists' estimates. The core rate, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, gained 6.6 percent year over year, although the monthly advance of 0.2 percent was well below forecasts. Producer prices for goods increased at an all-time high, jumping 2.4 percent from January. Producer prices for services were unchanged. The department noted tha nearly 40 percent of the February increase in goods prices was attributable to a 14.8 percent rise in gasoline prices. Prices for diesel fuel, jet fuel, and electricity were up as well. Large price gains were also reported for motor vehicles and equipment and dairy products.

Eurozone inflation rises more than estimated. Eurozone inflation rose more than initially estimated in February, final data from Eurostat showed on Thursday. Inflation accelerated to a new record high of 5.9 percent in February from 5.1 percent in January. The rate was revised up from an initial estimate of 5.8 percent. Core inflation that excludes volatile items like food and energy, increased to 2.7 percent from 2.3 percent in the previous month and line with average estimates. On a monthly basis, the harmonized index of consumer prices moved up by 0.9 percent, as estimated. Data showed that energy prices rose by 32.0 percent annually and the prices of food, alcohol and tobacco gained 4.2 percent. Non-energy industrial goods prices climbed by 3.1 percent and the prices for services grew by 2.5 percent.

Australia unemployment rate at lowest since 2008. Australia’s unemployment rate sank to a new 13-year low in February with a big rise in full-time positions, as the economy shrugged off more of the Omicron disruptions. The country’s unemployment rate fell to a seasonally adjusted four percent in February, compared with 4.2 percent in January. That is the lowest rate since August 2008, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said. The jobless rate for women fell to 3.8 percent, the lowest since May 1974. For men, the unemployment rate was 4.2 percent, slightly above the 4.1 percent recorded last December. The economy added a net 77,400 jobs last month, with full-time work rising by more than 4,000 a day, or 121,900 for February. Part-time jobs shrank by 44,500.
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Bank of Valletta p.l.c. is a public limited company regulated by the MFSA and is licensed to carry out the business of banking and investment services in terms of the Banking Act (Cap. 371 of the Laws of Malta) and the Investment Services Act (Cap.370. of the Laws of Malta).