US Fed may raise rates soon; French candidate pitches for franc’s return; Apple HQ ready to open

1 US Fed may raise rates soon (BBC) Federal Reserve officials have said they may need to raise interest rates “fairly soon” if the economy stays strong, minutes of their meeting show. The first meeting of the Fed since Donald Trump took office as president discussed the possibility of a rate rise as early as March.

Most economists have been forecasting a rise in June. However, Fed officials appear divided on the timing of a rise amid uncertainty over Mr Trump’s policies. “Several” expressed fears that unemployment could fall substantially below the Fed’s 4.8% target. That could trigger inflation pressures and force the Fed to boost rates at a faster pace than financial markets expect.

Unemployment in December was 4.7%, although it was back at 4.8% in January. Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Capital Economics, said the “fairly soon”‘ phrase in the minutes “clearly leaves the door open to a March rate hike, although … we still think the Fed will delay until June”.

2 French candidate pitches for franc’s return (San Francisco Chronicle) If Marine Le Pen has her way, the French will soon pay for their baguettes with francs, not euros. The presidential candidate from the anti-EU, anti-immigration National Front party is all about national sovereignty and independence. She wants France to take control of its money, subject to a referendum that would lead France out of the European Union and its shared currency.

But how would France pull off a euro exit, or “Frexit”? No country has left the euro since its creation in 1999. A number of economists paint dire scenarios in which the departure of one of the euro’s 19 countries unleashes chaos: market plunges, controls on money transfers, customs officers stopping people carrying suitcases of cash out of the country, a plague of defaults and lawsuits on bonds and contracts.

The euro was designed to be irrevocable. It’s the “Hotel California” principle, as in the Eagles’ song: you may wish to “check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” Le Pen is leading polls for the first round of voting April 23; most polls and prognosticators see her losing the second round on May 7.

But after the British vote last year to leave the 28-member European Union, and after Donald Trump’s election as US President, fewer people are taking a Le Pen defeat for granted.

3 Apple HQ ready to open (Gulf News) Apple has announced that it is set to open its sprawling new campus where thousands of its employees will be moving into over a period of six months.

Officially called the Apple Park, the 175-acre site features huge green spaces, a ring-shaped building, a 17-megawatt of rooftop solar, an Apple Store and café open to the public, a 100,000-square-foot fitness centre for employees, a theatre, as well as research and development facilities.

The 12,000 employees of the iPhone maker will begin moving into the new site in April, with the whole process taking over a period of six months. The campus’ 2.8 million-square-foot main building is clad entirely in the world’s largest panels of curved glass. It is located in the heart of Santa Clara Valley in California.

Steve Jobs, who would have turned 62 on February 24, had envisioned the facility as a centre for creativity and collaboration. In honour of Jobs’ memory and his influence on Apple and the world, the theatre at Apple Park, a 1,000-seat auditorium that is perched on a hill, one of the highest points at the park, will be named the Steve Jobs Theatre.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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