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ECB's Draghi says 'more optimistic' on the outlook for the eurozone
The outlook for eurozone growth is "more optimistic", the head of the European Central Bank (ECB), Mario Draghi, has said.
Accordingly, the central bank has raised its economic growth forecasts for this year and next, to 1.8% in 2017 and 1.7% in 2018.
That compares with previous forecasts of 1.7% and 1.6% respectively.
The comments came as borrowing costs were kept on hold in the 19-nation bloc, despite a pick-up in inflation.
It currently stands at 2%, which is slightly above the ECB's target of just below 2%. The bank also raised its annual inflation forecast for this year and next to 1.8% and 1.7%.
"I would say the risks of deflation have largely disappeared," Mr Draghi said at a news conference.
The main interest rate remained at 0% and the central bank's bond-buying programme, aimed at boosting the economy, was also kept unchanged.
The bank is currently committed to continuing its bond-buying programme until at least December, although the €80bn-a-month quantitative easing (QE) scheme will be trimmed to €60bn a month from April.
Asked at the news conference whether interest rates were likely to rise before the end of the QE programme, Mr Draghi replied that policy makers wanted to see "a sustained adjustment in the rate of inflation, and we don't see it yet... we see progress in the recovery [but] it's a gradual process".
In a statement ahead of the news conference, the ECB had reiterated: "The governing council continues to expect the key ECB interest rates to remain at present or lower levels for an extended period of time, and well past the horizon of the net asset purchases."
However, Mr Draghi said that a sentence had been removed from his introductory statement to the news conference to signal that "there is no longer that sense of urgency in taking further actions... that was prompted by the risks of deflation".
Neil Wilson, an analyst at ETX Capital, said: "Deflation is no longer the concern for the ECB - prices are not rising fast enough to warrant tapering or higher rates, but the imminent risk of deflation has passed.
"That's something of a watershed moment - the end of the beginning in terms of unconventional monetary policy tools perhaps."
FED RAISES RATES FOR THE SECOND TIME IN A DECADE
Federal Reserve officials, amid signs that the U.S. economy soon could shed its long period of stagnation, approved the first interest rate hike in a year Wednesday and said it foresees three more increases next year.
The Federal Open Market Committee raised its target range from a range of 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent to 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent. The overnight funds rate currently sits at 0.41 percent.
The committee also approved a quarter-point increase in the discount, or primary credit, rate, from 1 percent to 1.25 percent.
The decision was unanimous. Previous meetings had featured dissents from as many as three members who felt the Fed should resume a rate-hiking cycle it began in December 2015.
In addition to approving the much-expected increase, the FOMC also indicated a higher rate than projected back in September when it last released the quarterly look ahead. The committee now expects three rate hikes in 2017, two or three in 2018 and three in 2019.
In effect, the Fed added one more hike during the entire period, with the longer-run target up to 3 percent from 2.9 percent.
"What they did was highly anticipated. There was a slight surprise in next year, looking at an additional rate hike," said Myles Clouston, senior director of Nasdaq Advisory Services. "Overall, the Fed remains pretty steady overall, looking at gradual raises in interest runs in the long run."
The closely watched dot-plot also indicated a somewhat more ambitious future for hikes.
However, the committee continued to emphasize in its post-meeting statements that the path higher will be "gradual." It also stuck with language indicating that risks to the Fed's forecasts remain "roughly balanced," and emphasized that future moves will be data-dependent rather than subject to a set schedule.
The increase came with projections that economic conditions are changing.
On inflation, the committee said market-based measures remain low but have moved up "considerably," a word that was omitted from the November statement.
On the jobs market, Fed officials indicated that full employment is getting closer.
"The stance of monetary policy remains accommodative, thereby supporting some further strengthening in labor market conditions and a return to 2 percent inflation," the statement said.
That differed from November, when they included the more definitive "supporting further improvement in labor market conditions" language. There has been considerable discussion within the Fed about how close the labor market is to full employment, and this week's developments indicate that officials believe that condition is getting closer.
The move came with an incrementally more upbeat look at the economy. This week's statement said "economic activity has been expanding at a moderate pace since mid-year," an upgrade from November's assessment that growth had "picked up from the modest pace seen in the first half of this year."
Committee members lifted their expectations for GDP growth from 1.8 percent in 2016 to 1.9 percent, and 2.1 percent in 2017 against the previous estimate of 2.0 percent. However, 2018 remained at 2.0 percent while 2019 also was bumped up a notch, from 1.8 percent to 1.9 percent. The longer-run GDP projection remained at 1.8 percent.
Headline inflation expectations were little changed overall, with 2016 moved up from 1.3 percent in September to 1.5 percent in Wednesday's projections, but the longer-run outlook remained at 2.0 percent.
The Fed last hiked rates almost a year ago to the day — Dec. 16, 2015, to be exact — during a decidedly different time for the economy. GDP growth for the fourth quarter of 2015 was just 0.9 percent, and it was far from certain that inflation was heading toward the central bank's 2 percent target.
Markets initially welcomed the news then but then nose-dived, sending major stock averages just short of bear market territory in what would become a topsy-turvy year for geopolitics and growth.
A year later, things have changed significantly.
The economy has continued to trek toward full employment, with the jobless rate currently at 4.6 percent. Most inflation measures show the trend much closer to the Fed's benchmark as well.
The Dallas Fed's one-month trim mean inflation rate, for instance, is now at 2.1 percent.
Despite the Fed's tepid optimism, there is a growing feeling on Wall Street that growth both in GDP and inflation could surprise higher. For instance, Harvard economist Ken Rogoff said this week that economic gains under President-elect Donald Trump could be "significantly faster" than have been the case during the post-recession period.
"What's more interesting is what's going to happen next year," said Ed Keon, portfolio manager and managing director at QMA. "With the pro-growth agenda of the Trump administration, how will the Fed react to that?"
Trump's victory has brought with it hopes that fiscal loosening in the form of perhaps $1 trillion in infrastructure spending will spur growth. The stock market has posted a powerful rally during the postelection period, bringing with it a sharp climb in government bond yields.
Economic indicators have picked up in recent months, though news Wednesday that inventories declined dampened expectations for the fourth quarter. The Atlanta Fed now believes fourth-quarter growth will be 2.4 percent, down from 2.6 percent last week, and several other economists also pared back expectations for the current period.
The December 2015 hike was ite FOMC's first hike in more than nine years. The committee took the rate to zero during the financial crisis in 2008.
US PRIVATE SECTOR CREATED 216,000 JOBS IN NOW, VS 165,000 JOBS EXPECTED
November saw a big surprise in politics and a major jump in job creation, according to a report Wednesday from ADP and Moody's Analytics.
Private companies added a net 216,000 positions during the month, smashing the 165,000 estimate from economists surveyed by Reuters and marking the best month since June. The number was nearly double the 119,000 in October, which was revised lower from the originally reported 147,000.
The spike in hiring came amid Donald's Trump's shocking upset in the presidential race and against expectations that the U.S. job market was reaching a full employment condition that would cause payroll growth to slow.
"The labor market feels very good," Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, told CNBC. "Mr. Trump is inheriting a very strong economy."
During the campaign, Zandi released an analysis that concluded Trump's policies would cause a "lengthy recession."
Services dominated the month, with the sector adding 228,000 positions, while goods-producing industries lost 11,000 jobs. [The numbers are rounded, so the total does not come to 216,000.]
Within the broad services sector, trade, transportation and utilities created 69,000 jobs while professional and business services contributed 68,000, led by 47,000 in administrative and support services.
Education and health services contributed 43,000 to the total, while the burgeoning leisure and hospitality industry saw payroll growth of 38,000. Wall Street positions continued to increase as well, with a net 12,000 new hires in the financial services industry.
On the downside, manufacturing jobs continued to decline, losing 10,000, while mining declined 4,000. Construction added 2,000.
Small business has led the jobs recovery, but that wasn't the case in November. Firms with 500 or more employees grew by 90,000, while businesses with 50 to 499 employees added 89,000. Small business contributed just 37,000 to the total.
Job creation, specifically in manufacturing and energy, was a centerpiece of Trump's campaign platform. He vowed to curtail outsourcing and threatened to slap tariffs on countries that are engaged in unfair trade policies that hurt U.S. workers.
The ADP/Moody's release comes two days before the government's closely watched nonfarm payrolls report. Economists are expecting 173,000 total growth and 165,000 for private payrolls, according to FactSet. The unemployment rate is expected to stay unchanged at 4.9 percent.
EXPERTS: THE MARKET IS READY FOR A RATI HIKE, BUT WE NEED MORE GROWTH
The market is expecting a rate hike in December, but it may not take one well if the economy doesn't experience significant growth, Fidelity Investment macro expert Jurrien Timmer said Wednesday.
"The market, I think, keeps telling the Fed, 'Wait 'til we have growth, and then you can raise all you want,' because then the market can handle it. But at zero or negative growth, it can't," Timmer told told CNBC's "Squawk Box."
Timmer said that so far, third-quarter earnings have resembled a "very typical, consistent seasonal pattern" of companies under-promising, then over-delivering on their earnings.
But, after five quarters of negative growth with sequential improvement, Timmer said U.S. markets may see their first positive quarter.
"The transmission mechanism for the last problems when the Fed raised rates last December … was that the Chinese yuan was overvalued, then that went down, you had the whole capital flight thing and tightening of financial conditions," Timmer said.
"This time, the yuan has already devalued, so that's sort of out of the way, so I think the market can actually handle it," he said of a Fed rate hike.
IHT Wealth Management's Steven Dudash agreed, saying "it's time for the Fed to get moving."
Dudash told "Squawk Box" that artificially low rates have been in place for too long.
"Our economy's ready for it, our employment numbers are in the right spot, our underemployment's coming up, too," he said. "In a bubble, we're ready, but because of Japan and because of what's going on in Europe, I think [the Fed has] been held back a little bit."
Strategas Research Partners' Jason Trennert said Japan's negative interest rates was a red flag for the Fed and a telltale sign of the market's limits.
"I'm of the view that monetary policy can't create growth, it can just create the conditions upon which you can have growth," he told "Squawk Box."
And, in the case of Japan and Europe, which also has instituted negative interest rates, Trennert said it may not always be in the best interests of the average citizen to grant central banks that power.
"I think you could make the case, especially with negative interest rates now, that monetary policy has gone from being ineffectual to being harmful," he said. "If you have people that are taking money out of banks and putting it in safes — that's happening in Germany, it's happening in Japan — that's manifestly deflationary."
US IMPORT PRICES ROSE 0.1% IN SEPT VS 0.2% INCREASE EXPECTED
U.S. import prices rose in September as the cost of petroleum and a range of other goods increased, suggesting import deflation was starting to ebb.
The Labor Department said on Thursday import prices gained 0.1 percent last month after an unrevised 0.2 percent decline in August. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices rising 0.2 percent last month.
In the 12 months through September, import prices fell 1.1 percent, the smallest decrease since August 2014, after declining 2.2 percent in August. A strong dollar has resulted in the country importing deflation, helping to hold inflation persistently below the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target.
But with the dollar's rally gradually fading and oil prices continuing to stabilize, some of the deflationary pressures from overseas should start to ease and allow inflation to gradually rise toward its target.
Last month, imported petroleum prices increased 1.2 percent after decreasing 3.0 percent in August. Import prices excluding petroleum were unchanged for a second straight month. The cost of imported food increased 0.6 percent.
Prices for imported capital goods edged up 0.1 percent, rising for the first time since June 2014, while the cost of imported automobiles increased 0.2 percent. Imported consumer goods prices excluding automobiles were unchanged last month.
The report also showed export prices rose 0.3 percent in September after falling 0.8 percent in August. Export prices were down 1.5 percent from a year ago. That was the smallest decline since October 2014.
FED'S FISCHER SAYS NEAR - ZERO RATES, QE MAY BE THE FUTURE
Evidence that the so-called natural rate of interest has fallen to low levels could mean the economy is stuck in a low-growth rut that could prove hard to escape, Federal Reserve Vice Chair Stanley Fischer said on Wednesday.
Speaking to a central banking seminar in New York, the Fed's second-in-command said he was concerned that the changes in world savings and investment patterns that may have driven down the natural rate could "prove to be quite persistent...We could be stuck in a new longer-run equilibrium characterized by sluggish growth."
As a result, he said, central bankers may face a future where the short-term interest rates set by policymakers never get far above zero, and the unconventional tools used during the financial crisis become a "recurrent" fact of life.
"Ultralow interest rates may reflect more than just cyclical forces," Fischer said, but "be yet another indication that the economy's growth potential may have dimmed considerably."
Fischer's remarks did not address current Fed policy or interest rate plans.
It is not the first time a Fed official has openly expressed concerns about an underlying decline in U.S. economic potential, or fretted that the crisis shifted savings and investment patterns in a damaging way.
Over the past year in particular there has been a vigorous debate, backed up by fresh research, about the "natural" rate of interest. Sometimes referred to as a neutral or equilibrium rate, it is in many ways an abstraction - not a rate that is set by the Fed or used in transactions, but an estimate of the underlying rate that would keep the price level stable while the economy grows at potential.
A number of developments have led many at the Fed to conclude that the natural rate is currently very low, and that its decline may reflect a loss of economic potential. There are immediate implications for the Fed: a low natural rate means the Fed could not move its short-term federal funds rate very high before policy becomes too tight.
Some estimates have placed the natural rate in the United States at close to zero on an inflation-adjusted basis.
Fischer said the "silver lining" was the possibility that better policy could lift the natural rate along with U.S. potential. It would take more than monetary policy, however, and would require "some combination of improved public infrastructure, better education, more improvement for private investment, and more effective regulation."
STOCKS ARE STUCK IN A HOLDING PATTERN DESPITE THE FED, FIDELITY ANALYST SAYS
Stocks may have rebounded after the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged, but investors shouldn't expect a significant rally until earnings growth returns, Fidelity Investment's director of global macro said Thursday.
Jurrien Timmer spoke one day after the Federal Open Market Committee announced it would keep its Fed funds rate within a range of 0.25 to 0.50 percent but indicated it intended to raise rates at least once by year's end.
The S&P 500 declined about 2 percent in the two weeks heading into the Fed meeting as the 10-year Treasury ticked up. The S&P ended Wednesday's session about 1 percent higher, but Timmer said he's not convinced stocks will move substantially higher.
"If there's no earnings growth," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box" "There's only so much you can do in terms of a market rally no matter what the Fed does, and that's why we're kind of stuck in this holding pattern here."
The Fed has not increased rates since December, remaining on hold as policymakers assess the economy's ability to handle higher rates amid tepid growth at home and abroad.
Whether the stock market can weather a rate hike comes down to earnings growth, Timmer said. Despite four straight quarters of earnings declines, equities have risen as investors pile into the market for equities and other risk assets to find returns that government debt is no longer producing.
That is why stocks have been so sensitive to a recent rise in the U.S. 10-year Treasury yield, Timmer said. If the 10-year yield were to rise by 1 percent, the stock market would look roughly 20 percent overvalued, he said. But if that same increase dovetailed with earnings growth of about 6 percent, stocks would still look undervalued relative to bonds, he added.
"That's the fundamental problem that we have with this monetary policy cycle, and that's I think why the market is looking through [the Fed's decision] and seeing really only about one more hike for the cycle, which I think is the right way to look at it," Timmer said.
The market currently puts the odds of a rate hike in December at about 58 percent, according to the CME's FedWatch Tool.