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THE MARKETS WILL SPOOK WITH ANY SURPRISES FROM THE FED

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THE MARKETS WILL SPOOK WITH ANY SURPRISES FROM THE FED

Global financial markets will react with volatility if the Federal Reserve unveils any surprises today, affirms a leading analyst at one of the world’s leading financial advisory organisations.

Tom Elliott, deVere Group’s International Investment Strategist, is commenting ahead of the first Fed policy meeting under the new Chair, Jay Powell, at which the central bank is expected to raise interest rates.  The previous hike was in December 2017.

Mr Elliott observes: “Jay Powell is almost certain to announce a rate hike today of 25bp, taking the Fed Fund’s target rate from its current 1.25 per cent to 1.5 per cent up to a new range of 1.5 per cent to 1.75 per cent.

“Markets will not respond to the hike per se, since it has been widely anticipated. But they will respond to any surprises in the accompanying statement, which suggest a deviation from the expected three further rate hikes this year.”

He continues: “A cautious statement, that perhaps emphasises how moderate wage growth and inflation suggest further capacity in the economy for non-inflationary growth, will take pressure off bonds – yields will fall as prices rise – and support equities. Global bonds and stock markets will follow the U.S. markets in the rally. Growth-orientated stocks and sectors, and those with leverage, will outperform.

“But a statement that emphasises the inflationary risks of Trump’s tax cuts and raised import tariffs, and perhaps a comment of the need to pre-empt inflationary pressures through accelerated monetary tightening, will spook investors.

“A fourth rate hike this year will become priced into the markets, disruptive for bonds in particular but also for equities as a more aggressive Fed will have a negative impact on corporate profits. Financials will benefit from wider interest rate spreads, as will more defensive parts of the stock market.”

Mr Elliott goes on to say: “Investors will also be looking for word on the Fed’s quantitative easing (QE) program.

“The sheer size of the program makes its unwinding potentially hazardous for financial markets. Will the Fed continue to unwind the program by $10bn a month, taking the Fed’s balance sheet slowly down from its a peak of $4.5 trillion, to Powell’s stated aim of $2.5 tr to $3 trin four years? Or will it accelerate the unwinding, if Powell decides to use the unwinding of QE as an active policy tool by which to take liquidity out of the economy?

“He could, for instance, start actively selling bonds in the market in addition to not replacing expiring bonds. Since this will coincide with the Treasury issuing ever-more bonds to finance the widening budget deficit, an over-supply of Treasuries may disrupt financial markets.”

The Federal Reserve announcement is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET.

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Aston Martin says back on the road to profitability after 2020 loss

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Aston Martin says back on the road to profitability after 2020 loss 1

By Costas Pitas

LONDON (Reuters) – Aston Martin expects to almost double sales and move back towards profitability this year after sinking deeper into the red in 2020, when the luxury carmaker was hit by the pandemic, changed its boss and was forced to raise cash.

The British company’s shares jumped 9% in early Thursday trading after it kept a forecast for around 6,000 sales to dealers this year as new management turns around its performance.

The carmaker of choice for fictional secret agent James Bond has had a tough time since floating in 2018, as it failed to meet expectations and burnt through cash, prompting it to seek fresh investment from billionaire Executive Chairman Lawrence Stroll.

The firm made a 466-million pound ($660 million) loss last year, compared with a 120 million pound loss in 2019, as sales to dealers fell by 42% to 3,394 vehicles, hit by the closure of showrooms and factories due to COVID-19.

For 2021, it expects “to see the first steps towards improved profitability” but is still likely to post a pre-tax loss, the carmaker said.

“I am extremely pleased with the progress to date despite operating in these most challenging of times,” Stroll said.

Aston said demand for its first sport utility vehicle, the DBX, which rolled off the production line at its Welsh plant in 2020, was strong in a lucrative segment of the market it entered to widen its appeal.

The model accounted for 1,516 of deliveries to dealers last year and the company expects further growth in its first full-year of sales, including in the key market of China, where rivals such as Bentley are also seeing high demand.

“We had not even a half-year DBX production in wholesome so probably we are going to see over-proportional growth in China,” Chief Executive Tobias Moers, who took over in August, told Reuters.

($1 = 0.7065 pounds)

(Reporting by Costas Pitas. Editing by Estelle Shirbon and Mark Potter)

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Oil prices hit 11-month highs on tighter supplies, Fed assurance on low rates

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Oil prices hit 11-month highs on tighter supplies, Fed assurance on low rates 2

By Florence Tan

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices rose for a fourth straight session on Thursday to the highest levels in more than 11 months, underpinned by monetary easing policies and lower crude production in the United States.

Brent crude futures for April gained 19 cents, 0.3%, to $67.23 a barrel by 0400 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for April was at $63.30 a barrel, up 8 cents, 0.1%.

Both contracts touched their highest since January earlier in the session with Brent at $67.44 and WTI at $63.67.

An assurance from the U.S. Federal Reserve that interest rates would stay low for a while boosted investors’ risk appetite and global financial markets.

“Comments from Fed Chairman, Jerome Powell, earlier in the week relating to the need for monetary policy to remain accommodative have probably helped, but sentiment in the oil market has also become more bullish, with expectations for a tightening oil balance,” ING analysts said in a note.

A rare winter storm in Texas has caused U.S. crude production to drop by more than 10%, or 1 million barrels per day (bpd) last week, the Energy Information Administration said. [EIA/S]

Fuel supplies in the world’s largest oil consumer could also tighten as its refinery crude inputs had dropped to the lowest since September 2008.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies including Russia, a group known as OPEC+, is due to meet on March 4.

The group will discuss a modest easing of oil supply curbs from April given a recovery in prices, OPEC+ sources said, although some suggest holding steady for now given the risk of new setbacks in the battle against the pandemic.

Extra voluntary cuts by Saudi Arabia in February and March have tightened global supplies and supported prices.

(Reporting by Florence Tan)

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Australian media reforms pass parliament after last-ditch changes

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Australian media reforms pass parliament after last-ditch changes 3

By Colin Packham and Swati Pandey

CANBERRA (Reuters) – The Australian parliament on Thursday passed a new law designed to force Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc to pay media companies for content used on their platforms in reforms that could be replicated in other countries.

Australia will be the first country where a government arbitrator will decide the price to be paid by the tech giants if commercial negotiations with local news outlets fail.

The legislation was watered down, however, at the last minute after a standoff between the government and Facebook culminated in the social media company blocking all news for Australian users.

Subsequent amendments to the bill included giving the government the discretion to release Facebook or Google from the arbitration process if they prove they have made a “significant contribution” to the Australian news industry.

Some lawmakers and publishers have warned that could unfairly leave smaller media companies out in the cold, but both the government and Facebook have claimed the revised legislation as a win.

“The code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public-interest journalism in Australia,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a joint statement on Thursday.

The progress of the legislation has been closely watched around the world as countries including Canada and Britain consider similar steps to rein in the dominant tech platforms.

The revised code, which also includes a longer period for the tech companies to strike deals with media companies before the state intervenes, will be reviewed within one year of its commencement, the statement said. It did not provide a start date.

The legislation does not specifically name Facebook or Google. Frydenberg said earlier this week he will wait for the tech giants to strike commercial deals with media companies before deciding whether to compel both to do so under the new law.

Google has struck a series of deals with publishers, including a global content arrangement with News Corp, after earlier threatening to withdraw its search engine from Australia over the laws.

Several media companies, including Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment and the Australian Broadcasting Corp have said they are in talks with Facebook.

Representatives for both Google and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment on Thursday.

(Reporting by Colin Packham in Canberra and Swati Pandey in Sydney; Writing by Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Leslie Adler, Stephen Coates and Jane Wardell)

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