Financial and Economic Brief - Feb. 21, 2017

by © Liberty Publishing, Inc.

U.S. Household Debt on the Rise

According to the New York Federal Reserve's quarterly report, household debt in the U.S. totals $12.58 trillion, the highest level since 2008. This is a $226 billion increase for the fourth quarter of 2016. The debt is mainly attributed to rising home and auto loans, but credit card debt and student loans also play a role. The good news in the report is that there is no evidence that people can't handle the debt they're taking on. In fact, bankruptcies and foreclosures are at an 18-year low in the fourth quarter of 2016.
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March Interest Rate Hike, Probable

Last week, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen informed Congress that a March interest rate hike is being considered. According to Yellen, 'every meeting is live,' which includes the Fed's next meeting on March 14-15. Recently, the Fed fund futures gave just 17% odds of a rate increase in March and 47% in June. However, some economists believe that 'strong pickups' in inflation and retail sales have increased the chances. Fed officials have indicated they expect three quarter-point rate increases in 2017.
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Oil Prices on the Rise

Oil prices are on the rise today, as investor optimism over the effectiveness of production cuts encouraged 'record bets' on a continuation of price increases. Brent oil futures were up 28 cents at $56.09 a barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was up 23 cents at $53.63. However, growing oil output from the U.S. and high stores kept price gains 'in check.' Investors believe that OPEC members will fulfill their commitment to cut oil production by 1.8 million barrels a day during the first six months of 2017 and now hold more crude futures and options than at any time on record.
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Latest News

Financial and Economic Brief - Mar. 21, 2017

• Factory Production Rose in February - According to the Federal Reserve, U.S. factory production rose 0.5% in February from January with factories producing more autos, steel and computers.

• Short Term Rate Rises - The Fed raised a key short-term interest rate last week by a quarter-percentage point to a new range of 0.75% to 1.00%.

• U.S. Stocks Unchanged - U.S. stocks to open unchanged as investors processed the G20's decision to abandon a pledge to keep global trade free and open due to an "increasingly protectionist United States" after the recent two-day meeting failed to produce a compromise.

Financial and Economic Brief - Mar. 14, 2017

• Wholesale Inventories Fall - According to the U.S. Commerce Department, U.S. wholesale inventories fell 0.2% in January, the biggest fall since February 2016.

• New Mortgages are Riskier - Riskier borrowers are making up a larger percentage of new mortgages, pushing up delinquencies and increasing concerns about an “eventual spike” in defaults.

• Borrowers Move before Rate Hike - Emerging market borrowers such as Turkish banks and countries have hurried to raise money on dollar bond markets in 2017, trying to “get ahead” of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s interest rate increases.

Financial and Economic Brief - Mar. 7, 2017

• Job Claims Dropping - According to the Labor Department, initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 223,000 for the week ended February 25.

• Interest Rates Expected to Rise - Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen signaled last week that if the economy 'stays on track for the next few weeks', a rate hike would likely come at the March 14-15 Fed meeting.

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Financial and Economic Brief - Feb. 28, 2017

• Peso Up Over 5% - In February, Mexico's peso has turned out to be one of the best performers in the world, up over 5%.

• U.S. Jobless Claims Up - According to the Labor Department, claims for state unemployment benefits increased 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 244,000 for the week ended February 18.

• Doubts Over LSE and Deutsche Boerse Merger - The London Stock Exchange's (LSE) merger with Deutsche Boerse is uncertain after the LSE determined it couldn't observe certain conditions imposed by regulators.

Financial and Economic Brief - Feb. 21, 2017

• U.S. Household Debt on the Rise - According to the New York Federal Reserve's quarterly report, household debt in the U.S. totals $12.58 trillion, the highest level since 2008.

• March Interest Rate Hike, Probable - Last week, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen informed Congress that a March interest rate hike is being considered.

• Oil Prices on the Rise - Oil prices are on the rise today, as investor optimism over the effectiveness of production cuts encouraged 'record bets' on a continuation of price increases.

Financial and Economic Brief - Feb. 14, 2017

• U.S Import Prices Rise - According to the Labor Department, U.S. import prices increased 0.4% in January and 0.5% in December.

• OPEC Production Cuts a Success - The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported on Friday that OPEC achieved 90% on its share of production cuts in January totaling 1.8 million barrels per day.

• World Stocks Rise - World stocks and bond yields rose today, lifted by investors who are betting that President Trump’s tax reform plans will help economic growth and corporate profits.