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Yellen Says Interest Rate Hike Could Come ‘Relatively Soon’

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Janet Yellen
  • Yellen Says Interest Rate Hike Could Come ‘Relatively Soon’

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen signaled the U.S. central bank is close to lifting interest rates as the economy continues to create jobs at a healthy clip and inflation inches higher.

A rate hike “could well become appropriate relatively soon if incoming data provide some further evidence of continued progress toward the committee’s objectives,” Yellen said in the text of testimony she is scheduled to deliver Thursday in Washington before Congress’s Joint Economic Committee.

Yellen, who made no mention of the prospective policies of the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump, reiterated the expectation of Fed officials that future rate increases will be “gradual.” Bond prices have fallen and stocks have risen as investors anticipate that Trump’s proposals to cut taxes and boost infrastructure and defense spending will lead to faster inflation and stronger growth.

“Yellen’s testimony ignored the very real possibility of substantial fiscal stimulus next year,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics Ltd., said in a note. She “does not want the Fed to become even more of a political punch bag than it is already.”

Yellen’s remarks will serve to cement expectations, barring a significant negative shock, for an increase in interest rates when the Federal Open Market Committee gathers in Washington Dec. 13-14. Pricing in federal funds futures contracts already imply a greater than 95 percent chance of a quarter-point hike.

Risks of Delay

The Fed chair warned of the risks attached to waiting too long before raising rates.

“Were the FOMC to delay increases in the federal funds rate for too long, it could end up having to tighten policy relatively abruptly to keep the economy from significantly overshooting both of the committee’s longer-run policy goals,” she said. “Moreover, holding the federal funds rate at its current level for too long could also encourage excessive risk-taking and ultimately undermine financial stability.”

She suggested the danger of that happening soon was low because current policy is only “moderately accommodative.”

“The risk of falling behind the curve in the near future appears limited,” she said.

At their most recent meeting earlier this month, Fed officials left the target range for the benchmark federal funds rate at 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent — where it’s been since December — and said the case for raising rates had “continued to strengthen.”

Done Deal

“A rate hike in December is a done deal, barring a significant surprise in the next jobs numbers or in financial markets,” said Jonathan Wright, an economics professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a former Fed economist. “But the pace of firming is likely to continue to be glacial because the funds rate will then be within about a percentage point of the FOMC’s estimate of neutral,” he said, referring to the level of rates that neither spurs nor slows the economy.

Yellen said the decision not to raise rates earlier this month didn’t reflect a lack of confidence on the economy.

“I expect economic growth to continue at a moderate pace sufficient to generate some further strengthening in labor market conditions and a return of inflation to the committee’s 2 percent objective over the next couple of years,” she said. “In addition, global economic growth should firm, supported by accommodative monetary policies abroad.”

While the recent pace of jobs gains “cannot continue indefinitely,” Yellen said she still saw room for further strengthening of the labor market.

At 4.9 percent, the U.S. unemployment rate is still slightly above most Fed officials’ estimate for the lowest sustainable level of joblessness, she said. Involuntary part-time employment, she noted, remains elevated.

Yellen saw some signs that a tightening labor market was beginning to produce higher wage gains. Stepped up pay rises should eventually help boost inflation to the Fed’s goal just as temporary forces holding it down — lower prices for imports and oil — continue to fade, she said.

Yellen is scheduled to answer questions from lawmakers after delivering her prepared testimony at about 10 a.m.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Naira

Naira Stabilizes at N415/$1 at Official Fx Window

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Naira - Investors King

The Nigerian currency has continued its trend of closing at N415 per dollar, after it settled to close at that price (which it has closed at consistently since Friday) on Tuesday. This is according to data gathered from the Investors and Exporters window where the Naira is traded officially.

It seems to appear that the Naira has found its resting place at this price, considering the number of days at which it has closed at that particular price. It is now left to see how this currency will trade closer to the festive period.

However, this ‘stability’ cannot be held as a permanent thing, because for this price to be the new normal, it may have to be maintained over a longer period of time. The Central Bank of Nigeria should be making moves to bring the value of the naira back up again, to make things better for Nigerians and Nigeria especially as we approach the Christmas period.

The FMDQ group’s updates of the Spot and Forward exchange rates showed slight changes here and there, with nothing too heavy. The Spot rate did not see any changes from Monday, as it maintained the high of N405 per dollar and a low of N465.97 per dollar.

The Forward rate however witnessed a jump, with Tuesday’s high jumping back to N411 per dollar from N452 per dollar where it sat on Monday. The lowest of the Forward rate further fell to N457 per dollar from the N453 per dollar where it was on Monday.

Those who would benefit the most from Tuesday’s trading round are those who agreed on future deals at prices between N411 and N415 per dollar.

The daily turnover recorded by the FMDQ group on Tuesday sat at $152.98 million, more than $100 million less than the $256 million which Monday recorded.

On Tuesday, the parallel market saw the Naira trade at N565 per dollar. The Central Bank has however stated that it does not reckon with the parallel market.

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Forex

CBN Decentralises Form A, Introduces e-Form A to Improve Invincible Transactions

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Godwin Emefiele - Investors King

In an effort to improve access to foreign exchange and facilitate invincible forex transactions, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has decentralised access to Form A by introducing an electronic version, e-Form A, for all.

The CBN disclosed this in a circular titled ‘Automation of Form ‘A’ on the Trade Monitoring System’.

The e-Form A will now replace the hard copy for all invincible transactions, PTA/BTA, medicals, education, other remittances, with effect from Tuesday, 30 November 2021.

Understanding Form A

Form A allows forex customers under the invincible category to purchase/access forex at the CBN or interbank rate to make payments for eligible services as predetermined by the Foreign exchange manual.

Therefore, Form A is a form made available by the Central Bank of Nigeria to pay for foreign exchange transactions and other remittances as stated above.

CBN has now decentralised form A to allow more people to access forex at the apex bank predetermined rate and also for proper monitoring of forex transactions, this will allow CBN better curb forex diversion to ineligible items or restricted items.

Customers are required to have a valid Bank Verification Number (BVN) and pay N5,000 as fee for e-Form A application.

Read the CBN circular “This is to inform all authorized dealers and the general public of the deployment of e-Form ‘A’.

“Accordingly, the e-Form ‘A’ shall replace the hard copy of Form ‘A’ for invincible transactions [PTA/BTA, medicals, education, other remittances etc.]with effect from November 30, 2021.

“Consequently, all authorized dealers are required to ensure that the processing of Form ’A’ shall only be done electronically on the Trade Monitoring System accessible at www.tradesystem.gov.ng.

“The general public is required to obtain a valid Bank Verification Number (BVN) from their authorized dealer Banks. The BVN is a prerequisite for customers to access the Trade System for e-Form ‘A’ application.

“The e-Form ‘A’ is web-based and allows the general public to initiate the Form from their offices/homes and submit same to the authorized dealer bank.

“A charge of N5,000 (Five Thousand Naira) as fee per declaration of e-Form ‘A’ is applicable with effect from November 30, 2021, and henceforth. There will be a direct debit from the processing bank’s current account for each declaration which should be recovered the charge on the customer by the bank. However, customers for the e-Form ‘A’ should be separated from other bank charges.”

“All hard copies of Forms ‘A’ established on or before November 2 2021 (prior to the commencement of the e-Form ‘A’) shall be utilized within 15 working days of the establishment of the Form.

“For the avoidance of doubt, all established hard copies of Forms ‘A’ for which disbursement had not been made within the transition period of 15 working days shall be deemed cancelled.

“All authority dealer banks are enjoined to inform their customers of the development for compliance.”

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Naira

Naira Maintains Stability at Official Fx Window

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500 and 1000 naira bills (Nigerian currency)

The Naira maintained its streak on Monday, settling to close at N415.07 per dollar. This is the same price at which the Nigerian currency has closed for the last few days, according to the Investors and Exporters window where the Naira is traded officially.

While there have been very marginal differences in the opening prices over the last days, in the end the currency has come around to settle down at the same price (N415.07 per dollar) at the close of each day.

On Friday, the Naira opened at N413.71 per dollar which represented a 0.03% change from the previous day, according to the Investors and Exporters window. On Monday, the currency opened at a similar price, starting the day off at N413.75 per dollar.

Although there have been minimal changes in the opening prices, generally the currency opens at similar prices, with backgrounds of N413 per dollar and changes of only a few kobo.

While the general opening and closing prices didn’t witness much change, the same cannot be said for the Spot and Forward rates. On Friday, the Spot rate was between N404 per dollar and N444 per dollar. However, Monday saw a significant change in the Spot rate. Across all transactions that occurred on Monday, the naira reached a high of only N405 per dollar (N1 lower than Friday’s high), and went on to reach a low of N456.97 per dollar (N12 lower than the previous day).

The Forward rate – for future transactions that were agreed upon on Monday – saw a more significant change. Friday’s Forward rate high was recorded at N411 per dollar, but on Monday that fell greatly to N452 per dollar. However, Monday’s Forward rate lowest was N453 per dollar, about N2 better than the N455 per dollar at which it traded on Friday.

The total turnover of the dollar recorded on Monday sat at $256.69 million. This was considerably higher than the turnover of $215 million that was recorded on Friday.

At the parallel market on Monday, the Naira fell to close at N569 per dollar from the N560 per dollar at which it traded the previous day. After that exponential rise to about N535 per dollar, the parallel market is seeing the Naira return even closer to the N575 per dollar price at which it had sat for a while.

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