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The Week In Numbers: It’s All About The Fed

The Federal Reserve, or Fed for short, raised the federal funds rate to between 0.75% and 1%, after the labour market strengthened and inflation rate edged closer to its 2% target. It was also noted that economic activity has been expanding at a moderate pace. The interest rate hike is the third one since the 2008 great financial crisis and the second in three months.

In Japan, however, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) announced that it will be maintaining its long-term interest rates around 0% while its short-term interest rates will stay at -0.1% per cent. BOJ Governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, has declared that even an increase in inflation towards 1% will not immediately warrant an interest rate hike.

Back home, overall unemployment rate rose to a six-year high of 2.1% in 2016. The resident unemployment rate crept up from 2.8% in 2015 to 3% last year. On a seasonally adjusted basis, for every 100 unemployed persons, there were 77 job vacancies in December 2016. This dropped from a figure of 91 job vacancies per 100 unemployed persons in September 2016.

The Straits Times Index (SGX: ^STI) climbed to a 19-month high this week. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was at a 19-month too. It seems that markets breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Fed said that pace of interest-rate increases would be gradual.

On a lighter note, Singaporeans can rejoice that Henley & Partners, a consultancy firm that specialises in residence and citizenship planning, has ranked our passport as Number 1 in Asia for visa-free access, ahead of Japan. This is the highest ranking achieved thus far. On a global basis, our passport stands at number 4, climbing one spot from 2016. We are tied with Austria, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom.

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