Fed raises rates by further 0.25%; signals one more hike this year

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European shares pulled back on Wednesday, as energy stocks fell on tumbling crude prices and banks were hit after weak USA data raised questions over future rate hikes in the world's biggest economy.

Chair Janet Yellen was asked at a news conference whether she anxious that the Fed could rattle markets once it starts shrinking its bond holdings.

The Fed kept to earlier predictions it might raise its target rate once more this year.

Rising interest rates eventually affect millions of Americans from home buyers to credit card holders to savers.

The Fed's key short-term rate affects 30-year mortgages and other long-term rates only indirectly. "In a further sign that the Fed is leading a gradual global exit from monetary stimulus, Canada's Central Bank Governor last night surprised markets with hawkish comments". The standard worry is that if you keep rates too low for too long that inflation will get out of control. "The Fed is still going to raise rates today, that's pretty much baked in the cake". The idea is to ensure that the US economy doesn't overheat. But while it's true that stock markets have reached all-time highs and the unemployment rate is now relatively low, the pace of job creation has slowed down in recent months. The wages numbers added to a handful of worrying signals since the election for an economy that is now trailing many of its European contemporaries. The Fed's apparent lack of interest in such an approach, choosing instead to take the unemployment rate at face value and begin fighting the phantom menace of inflation, poses a huge risk of leaving millions of able-bodied non-workers permanently locked out of the labor market. "But if we don't see some firming of inflation and some improvement on the consumer side over the summer, it could slow them down" from hiking later in the year. The central bank still sees the economy reaching its 2% inflation goal.

Overall, the US has grown at a slow and steady pace since 2009, making it one of the longest periods of growth in American history.

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Following the outbreak of the crisis in 2007 the federal funds rate swirled downwards from 5.25 percent in August 2007 to 0.25 percent in December 2008, in order to stimulate the markets after the ferocious crash. "The biggest surprise would be a Fed that is determined to wait and see whether data continues to weaken before making any adjustments - which could see a sharply United States dollars rally - but that isn't our base case".

Janet Yellen, most of her colleagues on the Federal Reserve, and the Fed's professional staff all reject that idea.

The Fed would start with monthly reductions in Treasury holdings of no more than $6 billion and $4 billion in mortgage bonds.

The Committee included a statement about how it will begin to unwind its $4.5 trillion balance sheet, noting that it "currently expects to begin implementing a balance sheet normalization program this year, provided that the economy evolves broadly as anticipated".

LLoyds Research: Our economists see no change to their median forecast for one further hike this year, three in 2018 and then achieve a longer-run Fed funds rate of 3%. They meet again four more times this year - in July, September, October and December.

Some analysts suggest the rise could be the Fed's last this year as traders fret over tepid inflation and the future of Donald Trump's big-spending, tax-cutting agenda. Trump has both praised and criticized Yellen so it's unclear whether he'll renominate her.

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