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US Federal Reserve Set to Maintain Interest Rates Amid Economic Data Variability

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Federal Reserve

The US Federal Reserve is widely anticipated to maintain interest rates at their current levels this week amid a period of mixed economic data. Despite grappling with persistent inflation exceeding its target of two percent, the Fed has already raised interest rates 11 times in the past 18 months. The recent uptick in inflation due to rising energy costs has put additional pressure on the central bank. However, analysts and traders expect the Fed to refrain from further rate hikes in September, allowing policymakers to better assess the nation’s economic health.

EY Chief Economist Gregory Daco stated, “We think the Fed is done with its tightening cycle,” a view that has remained consistent over recent months. Deutsche Bank economists concur, noting that they expect the Fed to hold rates steady following strong signals ahead of the meeting.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) faces a delicate balancing act as it seeks to control inflation through interest rate increases while avoiding an economic downturn—a challenging task known as achieving a “soft landing.” Recent economic indicators suggest this may be feasible, with robust first-half economic growth, declining inflation, and a somewhat softened job market.

Goldman Sachs analysts lowered their US recession probability forecast from 20 percent to 15 percent, and many economists, including those within the Fed, no longer anticipate a recession. Some FOMC members, like Fed Chair Jerome Powell, believe there is a unique opportunity for the Fed to achieve a soft landing in the coming months, contingent on data vigilance.

Chicago Fed President Austan Goolsbee mentioned a “golden path opportunity,” acknowledging growing market confidence in the Fed’s ability to pull off this feat while staying responsive to data. Conversely, Fed governor Michelle Bowman has suggested that additional rate hikes may be necessary to reach the two percent inflation target.

While a September pause is widely expected, the consensus regarding a November rate hike is less clear. Traders currently assign a probability of slightly over 65 percent that the Fed will keep rates steady in November. Regardless of the ultimate decision, the Fed’s indication of another hike this year could serve as a useful signal to the markets, preventing expectations of an imminent end to the tightening cycle.

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Fire in Mangaf Workers’ Accommodation Claims 41 Lives

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mangaf kuwait fire

A devastating fire broke out early Wednesday in a building housing workers in Mangaf, southern Kuwait, resulting in the deaths of at least 41 people, according to Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Fahad Yusuf Saud Al-Sabah.

During his visit to the site, Sheikh Fahad, who also oversees the interior and defense ministries, criticized real estate owners for their violations and greed, attributing these factors to the tragic incident.

“Unfortunately, the greed of real estate owners is what leads to these matters,” Sheikh Fahad stated.

The blaze was reported to authorities at 6:00 a.m. local time (0300 GMT), according to Major General Eid Rashed Hamad.

“The building was used to house a large number of workers. Dozens were rescued, but sadly, many succumbed to smoke inhalation,” a senior police commander informed state television.

He further emphasized the longstanding warnings against overcrowding in worker accommodations, though he did not specify the workers’ occupations or nationalities.

The fire has been contained, and authorities are currently investigating its cause, officials said.

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Baltimore shipping lane fully reopens after bridge collapse

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The Baltimore shipping lane blocked for more than two months after a cargo ship collided with a major bridge in
March, sending it crashing into the water, fully reopened on Monday, authorities said.

The US Army Corps of Engineers, along with Navy salvage divers, restored the channel to its original dimensions by removing about 50,000 tons of debris from the Patapsco River, a statement from the Key Bridge Response Unified Command said.

The riverbed was certified as safe for transit on Monday.

“We are proud of the unified efforts that fully reopened the Federal Channel to port operations,” said Lieutenant General Scott Spellmon, commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers.

“The partnerships that endured through this response made this pivotal mission successful.”

On March 26, the Singapore-flagged M/V Dali lost power and plowed into a support column of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse and killing six road workers who had been filling potholes overnight.

The 106,000-ton ship had been headed for Sri Lanka at the time of the accident.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is investigating the incident along with the FBI, has said the ship had two electricity blackouts in the moments before the disaster.

The Dali was refloated last month and towed back into port.

The port of Baltimore is one of America’s busiest ports and a key hub for the auto industry, handling almost 850,000 autos and light trucks last year — more than any other US port, according to state figures.

The full reopening of the shipping channel will allow for two-way traffic, Monday’s statement said.

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PM Sheikh Hasina and Modi Exchange Pleasantries at Swearing-In

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Sheikh Hasina

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh and her Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, exchanged pleasantries following Modi’s swearing-in ceremony this evening.

Foreign leaders, including the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, took turns approaching the podium to congratulate Modi on taking his oath as the Indian Premier for a third consecutive term.

Clad in light purple, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stepped forward to greet Modi, who extended his hand to her. They exchanged a warm handshake and brief pleasantries, inquiring about each other’s well-being.

Modi then escorted Prime Minister Hasina to the banquet hall, guiding her to the dinner hosted by President Smt. Droupadi Murmu at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Prime Minister Hasina, accompanied by her daughter Saima Wazed, entered the Rashtrapati Bhavan as the third foreign leader to attend the oath-taking ceremony.

Top leaders from Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal, Mauritius, and Seychelles were also present at the swearing-in event, which saw a record attendance of over 8,000 dignitaries.

Prime Minister Hasina arrived in New Delhi on Saturday to participate in the ceremony. She is scheduled to depart for Dhaka tomorrow afternoon.

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