Stocks Close Lower As Fed's Comments Spark Turbulence

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell spoke Wednesday about the latest increase in interest rates

In his first news conference as Fed chief, Powell pointed to factors that have boosted the economic outlook in the past few months, including a "more stimulative" fiscal policy, in the wake of the massive tax cuts the US Congress passed in December a year ago.

"If I venture a prediction, there might be a four rate hikes in 2018", Stern NYU Professor of Economics Nicholas Economides said Wednesday during an interview on FOX Business' "Countdown to the Closing Bell".

But among the Fed officials who met in Washington this week, Powell said, "there's no thought that changes in trade policy should have any effect on the current outlook".

Gold steadied on Thursday below a two-week high hit in the previous session as the dollar slid after the US Federal Reserve showed a less hawkish stance on rates than expected. Wednesday's forecast put the Fed long-term rate - the point at which its policies are neither boosting the economy nor holding it back - at 2.9 per cent.

The US central bank has said it will raise its benchmark interest rate citing a strengthened economic outlook.

Credit cards with fixed interest rates and annual percentage rates that don't change for a set period of time won't be immediately affected.

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NEW YORK, March 21 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday, building on earlier gains after the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates as expected and a recovery on Facebook shares. The central bank forecast two more rate rises for 2018, while predicting three more increases next year and two more in 2020.

Central bankers see growth picking up this year and next, with GDP gaining 2.7 percent this year and 2.4 percent next year.

In the time since December 2015, when Yellen approved the first interest rate increase in nearly a decade, rates on consumer loans have slowly crept up - but are still far below pre-recession levels.

It is generally true that higher rates favor savers while lower rates favor borrowers - but the Fed does not directly control the rates consumers get on their bank accounts and mortgages.

Members of the Federal Open Markets Committee, which votes on rates, predicted the United States economy will grow by 2.7% this year, faster than the 2.5% predicted in December.

"Trade tariffs are a risk, of course, but more open economies", such as Mexico or the euro zone "could be more at risk than the U.S".

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Foster said: "The message in a nutshell is that data, so far, is still not strong enough to justify a faster hiking cycle this year".

An upbeat assessment on the supply-demand outlook from the Russia-OPEC group that has capped output also provided hopes for further price hikes.

"It's important that we do something, do what we can as a country to increase our potential growth rate", he said.

Some analysts say a short-term economic stimulus from Congress - in the form of a $1.5 trillion tax cut and federal spending increases - could eventually push the Fed to add a fourth rate move.

"I read this as the Fed is still having trouble rectifying moderate growth and subdued inflation", said economist Lindsey Piegza of Stifel.

But U.S. wage growth has remained sluggish and household budgets are tight.

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