Fed defies Trump to hike key rate again

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Though the Fed did indicate it would raise rates more slowly than previously expected next year, the Fed's core conclusion remains intact: the economy is growing, joblessness is low, and the central bank's support is no longer needed. Traders and investors began pricing in the rate hike early, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) declining 2,966 points (11.5 percent) since December 3. The index is down nearly 9 percent in December. Before the meeting, traders of United States interest-rate futures were betting the Fed would deliver no more than one rate hike next year, if even that.

Prior increases have helped drive up the Fed's benchmark rate over 2 per cent - which in turn drives up borrowing costs for ordinary Americans.

But the stock market has tumbled sharply in recent months. Bond prices surged, though, sending yields lower. That's a substantial move for that benchmark lending rate.

This will affect the rates for credit cards and other non-mortgage loans.

"Powell delivered a bit of a double whammy, flagging lots of worrying risks to the economy but still committing to two further rate increases in 2019".

The two-year US yield stood at 2.656 percent, just 0.097 percent less than the 10-year yield.

Investors were disappointed that Fed Chairman Jerome Powell failed to indicate a more marked slowdown in the pace of rate hikes, given concerns over the state of the USA economy.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Jerome H. Powell, Chairman; John C. Williams, Vice Chairman; Thomas I. Barkin; Raphael W. Bostic; Michelle W. Bowman; Lael Brainard; Richard H. Clarida; Mary C. Daly; Loretta J. Mester; and Randal K. Quarles. "He had to say that the economic picture is not as good as three months ago, while also saying that the pillars of the economy remain intact".

Peter Navarro, who is one of Trump's top trade advisers and pushes a hard stance against China, has tried to pin the entire market downturn on Powell. Mr. Market quickly showed what it thought of Powell's performance.

This dichotomy between an economy that is expanding at a robust pace and volatile markets that are coming under further pressure is the main reason why this Fed meeting was preceded by such uncertainty about outcomes, together with a heated debate that has not been seen for years.

Yet many USA indicators continue to reflect underlying economic strength. But Powell said the Fed would be driven by the economic data it sees, and insisted it wouldn't be influenced by politics. Instead, he has decided, beginning in 2019, to hold news conferences after each of the Fed's eight meetings each year, rather than only quarterly.

Veneta Dimitrova, senior US economist for Ned Davis Research, estimates that a 10 percent decline in inflation-adjusted household financial wealth in one period subtracts about 0.5 percent from real consumption growth in the subsequent period.

FedEx plunged after saying worldwide shipping, especially in Europe, fell in the latest quarter. Those worries were compounded by the sudden resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Both companies reported weaker sales than analysts were expecting. USA stocks are on pace for their biggest December decline since 1931, the depths of the Great Depression.

The Nasdaq composite gave up 147.08 points, or 2.2 percent, to 6,636.83. "The U.S. economy has momentum.This is not a group that is overly concerned about financial market volatility". Powell said he would continue to reduce the balance sheet.

The benefit of that stimulus will likely fade in 2019, slowing growth to a more modest pace.

"Market prices have meaning, reflecting supply and demand shifts realized and anticipated", Low wrote in a note to clients Thursday. The most recent, issued this week, were in a completely different range, from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent. The S&P 500 has lost about 15 per cent this quarter, the most during the record bull run.

The Stoxx Europe 600 recovered some losses but closed broadly lower, while Japanese shares slid into a bear market.

A strong yen also put downward pressure on stocks, with the dollar falling below ¥112. On Friday, the euro was down 0.3 per cent at $1.1415 while the dollar declined 0.1 per cent to 111.19 yen.

Financial spread-betters expect London's FTSE Frankfurt's DAX and Paris's CAC to fall between 1.2 and 1.4 percent when they open. Hong Kong's bucked the trend, ending the session 0.5 per cent higher at 25,753.

Gold rose 0.2 percent to $1,256.40 an ounce.

Silver dropped from a Wednesday high of US$14.77 per ounce to as low as US$14.53 after the hike was announced.