- Yellen Backs Gradual Rate Rises as Fed Not Behind the Curve
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen backed a strategy for gradually raising interest rates, arguing that the central bank wasn’t behind the curve in containing inflation pressures but nevertheless can’t afford to allow the economy to run too hot.
“I consider it prudent to adjust the stance of monetary policy gradually over time,” she said Thursday in remarks to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research in California, while stressing the considerable doubt surrounding that outlook.
Yellen’s second speech this week comes just a day before the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president. She said that future alterations in fiscal policy were just one of the many uncertainties that the Fed would have to grapple with as it plots its monetary moves in the months ahead.
Not only is the size, timing and composition of such changes unclear, estimates of their impact on the economy by budget experts vary considerably, Yellen noted in a footnote to the speech.
“She doesn’t feel like the economy is overheating,” said Laura Rosner, senior U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York. “Nothing in her speech gave a strong signal that a hike is coming in March.” Policy makers next meet Jan. 31-Feb. 1, followed by a gathering on March 14-15.
In making the case that the Fed had not fallen behind the curve, Yellen said that wages had risen “only modestly” and the manufacturing sector was operating well below capacity.
What’s more, she didn’t see that changing soon. Payroll growth has slowed while the economic expansion “seems unlikely to pick up markedly in the near term” given weak foreign demand and prospective gradual increases in interest rates, she said.
Still, she saw dangers in permitting the economy to overheat and inflation expectations to get out of control. “Allowing the economy to run markedly and persistently ‘hot’ would be risky and unwise,” she said.
Another factor arguing for a gradual approach to raising interest rates is what Yellen called a “passive” removal of monetary accommodation via the Fed’s balance sheet.
In another footnote to her speech, Yellen said a shortening in the average maturity of the central bank’s bond holdings and the approach of an eventual reduction in its balance sheet could increase the yield on the 10-year Treasury note by 15 basis points this year. That would be roughly equivalent to two 25 basis point increase in the inter-bank federal funds rate. She did not say when the reduction in the balance sheet would begin.
The Fed raised interest rates in December for the first time in a year, lifting its target range for the benchmark federal funds rate to 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent. Policy makers have penciled in three quarter-point increases for 2017, according to the median of their quarterly estimates in December.
Yellen spelled out in detail a point that she also made in her shorter speech on Wednesday, namely, that the Fed was close to achieving its goals of full employment and stable prices.
The jobless rate stood at 4.7 percent in December, slightly below the level most Fed policy makers view as full employment.
“In the coming months, I expect some further strengthening in labor market conditions as the economy continues to expand at a moderate pace,” Yellen said.
The “strong labor market” should help lift inflation to the Fed’s 2 percent goal over the next couple of years, she added.
As measured by the personal consumption expenditure price index, inflation rose 1.4 percent in the 12 months through November. That’s up markedly from 0.5 percent on the same basis in November 2015, in part because of a rebound in oil prices.
Answering audience questions, Yellen described the risks to stability of the financial system as “moderate” and nowhere near as big as they were in the midst of the 2008-09 crisis. “There’s a little less to lose sleep about now,” she said.
One potential danger on the U.S. central bank’s radar screen: financial developments in China, though Yellen said the Fed thinks the Asian nation has the ability to deal with them.
Yellen and Taylor
Yellen spent much of her speech discussing the benefits and drawbacks of using simple rules to guide monetary policy, such as one developed by John Taylor, a scholar at the Stanford Institute and a professor at Stanford University.
In response to a question from Taylor, who was in the audience, Yellen said she believed in “systematic monetary policy” but was opposed to efforts by Republican lawmakers to force the Fed to adopt a rule of its own choosing to guide policy.
While rules can serve as “useful benchmarks,” they often do not take into account important factors potentially affecting the economic outlook, such as fiscal policy, she said in her speech.
Given all the uncertainties, determining how best to adjust interest rates to sustain a strong jobs market while maintaining low and stable inflation “will not be easy,” Yellen said.
Increased Demand Paves The Way for Expansion of Africa’s Sugar Industry
Africa, June 2021: A new focus report produced by the Oxford Business Group (OBG), in partnership with the International Sugar Organization (ISO), explores the potential that Africa’s sugar industry holds for growth on the back of an anticipated rise in regional demand. The report was presented to ISO members during the MECAS meeting at the Organization’s 58th Council Session, on June 17th 2021.
Titled “Sugar in Africa”, the report highlights the opportunities for investors to contribute to the industry’s development by helping to bridge infrastructure gaps in segments such as farming and refining and port facilities.
The report considers the benefits that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could deliver by supporting fair intra-African sugar trade efforts and bringing regulatory frameworks under a common umbrella, which will be key to improving competitiveness.
The increased international focus on ESG standards is another topical issue examined. Here, the report charts the initiatives already under way in Africa supported by green-focused investment with sustainability at their core, which will help to instil confidence in new investors keen to adhere to ESG principles in their decision-making.
In addition, subscribers will find coverage of the impact that Covid-19 had on the industry, with detailed analysis provided of the decrease in both worldwide sugar production and prices, as movement restrictions and social-distancing measures took their toll on operations.
The report shines a spotlight on sugar production in key markets across the continent, noting regional differences in terms of output and assessing individual countries’ roles as net exporters and importers.
It also includes an interview with José Orive, Executive Director, International Sugar Organisation, in which he maps out the particularities of the African sugar industry, while sharing his thoughts on what needs to be done to promote continental trade and sustainable development.
“The region is well advanced in terms of sugar production overall, but several challenges still hinder its full potential,” he said. “It is not enough to just produce sugar; producers must be able to move it to buyers efficiently. When all negotiations related to the AfCFTA have concluded, we expect greater investment across the continent and a clearer regulatory framework.”
Karine Loehman, OBG’s Managing Director for Africa, said that while the challenges faced by Africa’s sugar producers shouldn’t be underestimated, the new report produced with the ISO pointed to an industry primed for growth on the back of anticipated increased consumption across the continent and higher levels of output in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Regional demand for sugar is expected to rise in the coming years, driven up by Africa’s population growth and drawing a line under declines triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said. “With sub-Saharan Africa’s per capita sugar consumption currently standing at around half of the global average, the opportunities to help meet increasing domestic need by boosting production are considerable.”
The study on Africa’s sugar industry forms part of a series of tailored reports that OBG is currently producing with its partners, alongside other highly relevant, go-to research tools, including a range of country-specific Growth and Recovery Outlook articles and interviews.
Global Demand for Investment Gold Plunged by 70% YoY to 161 Metric Tons in Q1 2021
Last year, investors flocked to gold as stock markets crashed on a gloomy economic outlook due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the second quarter of 2020, global demand for investment gold surged to over 591 metric tons, the second-highest level since 2016. However, the investors’ demand for gold has dropped significantly this year.
According to data compiled by AksjeBloggen, global demand for investment gold plunged by 70% year-over-year to 161 metric tons in the first quarter of 2021.
The Lowest Quarterly Figures after Record Gold Investments in 2020
In 2016, the global gold demand amounted to 4,309 metric tons, revealed Statista and the World Gold Council data. By the end of 2019, this figure rose to 4,356 metric tons. Investment gold accounted for 30% of that amount. Worldwide gold jewelry demand volumes reached 2,118 metric tons that year. Central banks and technology followed with 648 and 326 metric tons, respectively.
Statistics show the global demand for investment gold surged amid the COVID-19 outbreak, growing by 35% YoY to almost 1,800 metric tons in 2020. Demands for gold used in technology also rose by 17% to 383.4 metric tons, while central banks and other institutions bought 326.2 metric tons of gold in 2020, a 50% plunge in a year.
However, after record gold investments in 2020, the global demand for gold for investment purposes dropped to the lowest quarterly level in years.
The Price of Gold Dropped by 5% Since January
The average gold value tends to increase during a recession, making it an attractive investment in uncertain times. In February 2019, a troy ounce of gold cost $1,320.07, revealed the Statista and World Gold Council data. By the end of that year, the price of gold rose to $1,479.13.
The gold price continued growing throughout 2020, reaching an all-time high of over $2,000 in August. By the end of the year, the precious metal price slipped to $1,864 and then rose to over $1,950 in January 2021.
However, the first quarter of the year brought a negative trend, with the price of gold falling to $1,684 by the end of March. Statistics indicate the price of gold stood at around $1,860 last week, a 5% drop since the beginning of the year.
Gold, Other Safe Haven Assets Plunge Ahead of Fed Rate Hikes
Gold and other safe-haven assets plunged last week as the Federal Reserve signals the possibility of raising interest rates twice in 2023 given the ongoing economic recovery post-COVID-19.
The price of gold dropped by 6.04 percent last week as investors rushed to move their funds out of safe-haven assets including the new gold, cryptocurrency.
The entire crypto space sheds $898 billion in market value to hover around $1.625 trillion last week, down from $2.523 trillion recorded on Wednesday 12, 2021. Its highest market capitalisation till date.
The Federal Reserve raised inflation expectations to 3.4 percent and shifted the year it is expected to increase interest rates from near-zero to 2023 from the previously projected 2024.
The new hawkish stance of the central bank led to capital outflow from safe havens and subsequently boosted dollar attraction.
The United States Dollar gained across the board with the dollar index that tracks its performance against six major currencies, rising by 0.63 percent to 91.103 last week.
However, on Monday morning the gold showed signs of recovery, gaining 0.5 percent to $1,772.34 per ounce following the retreat in U.S. treasury yield that boosted the attraction of non-yielding metal.
Bitcoin, the most dominant cryptocurrency coin, pared losses to $33,245 per coin, up from the $32,658 decline it posted last week.
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