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Federal Reserve signals potential end to rate hike campaign
In this issue: Fed raises interest rates, signals potential end to hikes; PacWest in turmoil and seeking solution; French police cracking down on protesters
The US Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points, marking its 10th consecutive rate increase in its effort to tackle inflation and economic slowdown. The key benchmark federal funds rate is now at 5% to 5.25%, the highest since August 2007. However, the bank also hinted that future rate increases were not a given, signalling that future policy moves would hinge on "incoming information". The move was not unexpected by the financial markets, which are now looking for clarity on the bank's future actions. The meeting came amid continued volatility in the financial sector, after the third implosion of a US bank this week.
On our radar
PacWest Bancorp is considering strategic options including a sale or capital raising, according to an unnamed source. The bank has seen its shares drop by nearly 60%, underlining ongoing concerns about the health of regional banks in the US. The situation could restrict credit availability and impede growth, and comes despite regulators’ efforts to tackle the banking crisis. Hedge funds are reportedly expecting other banks to follow First Republic Bank in failing, while some executives have suggested raising capital during a crisis could be seen as a sign of weakness. PacWest is hoping to avoid regulatory intervention by proactively seeking a solution to its financial woes.
Human rights lawyers in France are suing the Paris police and prosecutor’s office for what they claim are arbitrary arrests of demonstrators. The lawyers are part of a team representing almost 100 plaintiffs who say that recent police practices constitute an assault on civil liberties in France. Critics of the police claim that laws are being weaponized to suppress demonstrations, citing bans on participation in a “crowd” susceptible of “troubling public order” and restrictions on the right to partially cover one’s face during protests. Advocates for civil liberties also say that there is increasing abuse of laws prohibiting people from participating in a group preparing acts of violence. Furthermore, human rights observers are warning about outright bans on demonstrations, including one on protesters’ use of pots and pans. The government has been accused of misrepresenting the law on protest notification and detentions at protests. The crackdown on demonstrators is, according to one lawyer, part of a wider strategy to prevent organized protests from taking place. Despite the arrests, protests have continued to take place in France, with hundreds of thousands of people turning out.
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