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Last Week in Numbers: US Fed Keeps Interest Rates Steady

The US Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged last week. But the Fed did say that it expects inflation to rise this year, and that interest rates should continue to climb later in the year. The US’s central bank, which raised rates three times in 2017, has forecast another three more hikes for 2018.

This comes as the United States reported that their economy grew by 2.3% in 2017. The U.S. also added 200,000 jobs in January, maintaining a 17-year low unemployment rate of 4.1%. Average hourly earnings rose by 2.9% from a year ago, the most in more than 8 years. 18 states also began the year with higher minimum wages.

January proved that Bitcoin’s price can fall just as quickly as it rises. The cryptocurrency’s value had reached a high of US$19,511 on December 18, but now sits closer to US$9,000 after a January sell-off. The decline comes after US$500 million worth of cryptocurrencies were stolen by hackers, which has prompted a call for greater regulation. The social media platform, Facebook, had also recently banned all advertisements about Bitcoin.

A new data analysis by Bloomberg Economics showed that China’s growth rate for 2015 was likely overstated by a couple of percentage points. The official national GDP for 2015 was suspiciously high as growth only slowed by 0.4 percentage points to 6.9%. This was despite the fact that 2015 was a year in which China botched its RMB devaluation and suffered from a period of financial market volatility. Economists believe that the growth of China’s economy should actually be between 1.2 and 3.1 percentage points lower than the official growth rate.

Meanwhile, bank lending in Singapore was down 0.3% in December 2017 when compared to November 2017. This was a reversal of the 0.6% monthly gain reported in November. Loans through domestic banking units fell to S$652 billion in December, down from S$654 billion in November. Business loans slipped by 0.8% to S$390 billion while consumer loans gained 0.4% to S$262 billion, a slight deceleration from the 0.9% increase in November. On a yearly basis, bank lending increased by 5.6%.

The world witnessed a rare super blue blood moon on 31 January 2018. A blue moon (when two full moons occur in the same month) occurs just under 1 in 3 years. A supermoon (when the moon appears the largest as it is closest to the Earth) occurs around 3-4 times a year. A blood moon (when the moon appears copper red due to a lunar eclipse) happens about 2-4 times a year. However, the occurrence of all three events together is extremely rare, with the last sighting of a blue moon total lunar eclipse being more than 150 years ago.

Finally, an estimate of between 30,000 and 40,000 people attended this year’s Thaipusam procession. This included around 250 kavadi bearers and 10,000 devotees holding milk pots. This year, the procession, which usually lasts 24 hours, was shortened due to the lunar eclipse, which took place between 6.51 pm and 11.11 pm on Wednesday night.

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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice.