Business World

Saturday 16 December 2017

Debt crisis: Markets rally after US Fed intervenes


The panic infesting financial markets eased today following a pledge that US interest rates would be kept at record lows for the next two years.

The FTSE 100 Index opened nearly 2pc higher today after it was boosted by overnight rallies which saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average in the US rise by 4pc, while Asian markets also made progress.

The turnaround came after the US Federal Reserve said it would keep interest rates at near zero until the middle of 2013 to help the ailing economy.

World markets have been in turmoil for more than a week as investors feared that the debt crises in the US and the eurozone would lead the global economy back into recession.

Markets have become increasingly fearful about the world's biggest economy after its recovery slowed in recent months and credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's stripped the US of its prized AAA status.

World markets have fallen some 15pc since July 22, which has wiped about 4 trillion US dollars (£2.5 trillion) from their value.

But shares began to recover yesterday amid hopes that the Fed would announce a third round of quantitative easing (QE), or money printing.

Although it disappointed markets by failing to announce fresh stimulus measures, it said it had discussed the range of tools at its disposal, which hinted that more money printing could be on the cards.

And the pledge that interest rates would stay "exceptionally low" for at least two years helped restore some confidence to beleaguered markets. It had previously only said interest would be low for an "extended" period.

But analysts warned that markets would still show volatility because the underlying cause of the recent bloodbath had not been solved.

Ben Potter, market strategist at IG Markets, said: "The reasons behind the recent turmoil - slowing US growth and European debt contagion - are still present.

"Our view is that the recent rally was nothing more than a very aggressive short covering rally - if you stretch the rubber band enough one way, it will eventually snap back hard in the opposite direction."

He added that the Fed was effectively "out of bullets" because its options to inject fresh life into the sluggish economy were limited.

Eurozone leaders intervened this week by buying bonds to shore up the finances of debt-ridden Spain and Italy, which has also helped to restore confidence in markets.

By last night, the FTSE 100 Index had fallen 12pc since Friday July 29, wiping £185 billion from its value despite a rise of nearly 2pc yesterday.

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