Overseas Headlines – March 16, 2017


Fewer Americans Filed Claims Last Week for Jobless Benefits

Fewer Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, underscoring a sturdy job market. Jobless claims fell by 2,000 to 241,000 in the week ended March 11, a report from the Labour Department showed Thursday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for 240,000. Employers, who are finding it difficult to lure more skilled and experienced workers at a time of steady sales growth, are reluctant to reduce headcounts. The report complements data last week showing above-average payroll growth in February and gradual wage gains. Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey for initial jobless claims ranged from 233,000 to 255,000. The figure for the previous week was unrevised at 243,000. No states estimated jobless claims last week, and there was nothing unusual in the figures, according to the Labour Department. The four-week moving average increased to 237,250 last week from 236,500.


China, following Fed, lifts short-term rates to steady yuan, battle debt
China’s central bank raised short-term interest rates on Thursday in what economists said was a bid to stave off capital outflows and keep the yuan currency stable after the Federal Reserve raised U.S. rates overnight. The increase in rates was China’s third in as many months, and came a day after the end of the annual session of parliament where leaders warned that tackling risks from a rapid build-up in debt would be a top policy priority this year. Hours earlier, the Fed raised its benchmark policy rate, as had been widely expected, and signalled more hikes were on the way as the U.S. economy picks up steam. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has left its benchmark lending rate unchanged since an October 2015 cut, and said specifically that Thursday’s action should not be seen as full-blown policy tightening, like that of the Fed.


BOE to Hold Low Rate as Brexit-Weary Pound Fuels Prices
Faster inflation appears to be making a case for a rate hike at the Bank of England, but recent signs of a weakening economy and the looming Brexit negotiations mean officials aren’t ready to go there yet. The BOE announces its policy decision at noon in London, and economists predict the benchmark rate will stay at a record-low 0.25 percent. With the pound’s 18 percent drop since the referendum fanning consumer prices and starting to squeeze households, officials will probably allow inflation to wander above target so as not to subdue growth. That contrasts with the U.S. Federal Reserve, which raised rates on Wednesday and signalled more to come as inflation gets close to its goal.