June 18, 2018, 9:02 pm
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1 Philippine Peso = 0.06887 UAE Dirham
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1 Philippine Peso = 1 Philippine Peso
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1 Philippine Peso = 148.88431 Sierra Leone Leone
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1 Philippine Peso = 0.56497 Taiwan Dollar
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1 Philippine Peso = 0.01875 United States Dollar
1 Philippine Peso = 0.59066 Uruguayan New Peso
1 Philippine Peso = 148.13426 Uzbekistan Sum
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1 Philippine Peso = 10.58541 CFA Franc (BEAC)
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1 Philippine Peso = 10.58541 CFA Franc (BCEAO)
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US economy shows only modest signs of inflation pressures

WASHINGTON - The US economy expanded at a modest-to-moderate pace between mid-February and the end of March, but inflation pressures remained in check despite more difficulties in attracting and retaining workers, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday.

“On balance, prices rose modestly,” the US central bank said in its periodic gauge of the health of the economy derived from surveying business contacts nationwide.

Firms mostly expected price growth to be mild to moderate over the coming months, the Fed added.

It raised its benchmark interest rate in March for the second time in three months and many policymakers appear bullish on the prospects of more tightening this year with the nation near full employment and inflation slowly rising.

That said, there is still debate within the Fed about just how rapid and sustained the pickup in inflation will be given that it has struggled to reach the central bank’s 2 percent target over several years.

Elsewhere in the report, most Fed districts said businesses had experienced more difficulty filling low-skilled positions and a larger number of firms said they faced more problems retaining workers.

Employers surveyed by the Fed in recent months have often reported rising wage pressures for specific sectors such as construction and highly-skilled jobs.

Modest wage pressures broadened during the most recent survey period, the Fed said, and a larger number of firms mentioned higher turnover rates.

Firms in the Fed’s Atlanta district said they continued to “struggle to find, hire and hold onto quality workers, particularly in skilled technical jobs, but also in sales, finance, information technology, and compliance positions,” according to the report.

Despite a slowdown in jobs growth last month, the US unemployment rate fell to near a 10-year low of 4.5 percent and the number of jobs created continued to outstrip growth in the working-age population.

The Beige Book was compiled by the Richmond Fed with information collected on or before April 10. 

Meanwhile, traders have scaled back bets the Fed would increase rates twice more by the end of 2017, interest rates futures showed on Wednesday.

A spate of weaker-than-forecast data on jobs, consumer spending and inflation, together with investors’ nervousness about US tension with Syria and North Korea, have reduced expectations the US central bank would increase its policy rates two more times by year-end.

“I don’t know whether the Fed could raise rates twice more, let alone three,” said Gemma Wright-Casparius, senior portfolio manager at Vanguard in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

Federal funds futures FFZ7 implied traders expected a bit over a 36 percent chance the Fed would increase rates twice by year-end on Wednesday. This compared with 57 percent one and a half weeks ago prior to a mildly disappointing March jobs report, according to CME Group’s FedWatch program. 

At the Fed’s policy meeting in March, policy-makers raised rates by a quarter point to 0.75-1.00 percent and signaled their median view for two more rate increases in 2017.

Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren on Wednesday followed a number of other Fed officials in recent days, calling for the central bank to begin shrinking its $4.5 trillion balance sheet later this year. 

But their intention to raise rates and reduce the Fed’s bond holdings may be hampered by soft readings on payrolls and consumer spending and a surprise drop in the Consumer Price Index last month, analysts and investors said.

Doubts whether US President Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress would deliver fiscal stimulus in 2017 may also reduce Fed’s ability to hike rates further, analysts said.

Fed funds futures suggested traders saw only a 4 percent chance Fed policy-makers would raise rates at their next meeting on May 2-3 FFK7, according to CME’s FedWatch.

They implied traders saw a 66 percent probability the Fed would hike rates at its Sept. 19-20 meeting FFU7. – Reuters
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