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BOV Market Watch - Week ending 18th March 2021
18 Mar 2021

Fed Maintains Near-Zero Rate Expectations Through 2023. Federal Reserve members expected US economic growth to strengthen significantly this year, driving inflation higher. Nevertheless, future interest rate expectations remained put at 0.25 percent through 2023. The Fed also reiterated its intention to keep its bond purchasing program alive, purchasing $120 billion worth of debt per month until it policy targets were met. GDP growth was expected to accelerate in 2021 from a previous forecast of 4.2 percent to a sharp 6.5 percent, with expected inflation rising to 2.2 percent from 1.8 percent previously over 2021.

Economic Confidence Rises Again In Germany. The ZEW Economic Confidence index rose to 76.6 in March from its February value of 71.2. Expectations were for an increase to 74.0. ZEW President Achim Wambach cited this greater-than-expected rise was in line with experts’ expectations of a broad-based recovery of the German economy. Economic confidence surrounding the Eurozone also rose, with the index rising to 74.0, an increase of 4.4 point from February. Inflation expectations within the monetary union meanwhile also rose significantly, up 8.8 points to 80.6, with ZEW adding that most experts expected inflation rates across the bloc to rise.

Eurozone Labour Costs Rise on Average. Hourly labour costs in the Eurozone increased by 3 percent year on year in the final quarter of 2020, compared to a 1.6 percent rise in the third quarter of the same year. Wages and salaries were seen to have risen by 3.5% compared to the rise in non-wage costs of 1.5%. The increase in labour costs was nevertheless not uniform across member states, with some countries experiencing sharper rises (for example Luxembourg, Cyprus and Austria) and others experiencing contracting labour costs (Netherlands, Lithuania and Estonia).

Norwegian Central Bank Indicates Rate Hike Probable. Norway’s Central Bank signalled that an interest rate hike might be necessary in the latter half of 2021 as economic activity picked up at a faster-than-expected rate in the Scandinavian economy. This improvement was also linked to projections of an improving global economic outlook. Norges Bank governor Olsen stated that as economic conditions normalised, interest rate increases from the current zero-rate would “again be appropriate”. In contrast to most other central banks, Norges Bank expected a gradual rise in the interest rate as 2021 entered its second half.

Australian Unemployment Rate Falls Below Forecast. The Australian jobless rates fell to just 5.8% in February from 6.4% the previous month, well below a forecast marginal decrease to 6.3%. Economists argued this was evidence that the labour market was improving at a faster rate than most expected it with Commonwealth Bank economist Kristina Clifton adding that the jobs lost during the early months of coronavirus pandemic were fully replaced by the increase registered. Job growth strength was also cited as a reason in favour of removing broad based Australian government support programmes such as the JobKeeper program, which had been designed to support businesses and help keep people employed through subsidies.

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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).