Asia stocks reverse as Wall St retreats from record high

Most analysts now expect the Fed to push rates higher by another 0.25 per cent in March, following the hike in December.

Banks and health care stocks climbed the most as investors priced in an increasing likelihood that interest rates will rise in the coming months.

Strategists said the Fed Chair's comments likely cement a rate hike at the Fed's March 14-15 meeting.

The Fed will get to see one more employment report before they decide the direction of interest rates, when the Labor Department releases data for February on March 10, and will see two inflation reports the following week.

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What is different this year is that traders are actually falling into line with the March rate-hike view and the Fed's current forecast for three rate hikes this year.

Barclays analysts agreed, and also highlighted Yellen's comments on the reduced economic risks in the global economy. "Consumption growth has been encouraging, supported by continued job gains, rising wealth, and greater confidence", Brainard said.

"We now judge that it will be appropriate to gradually increase the federal funds rate if the economic data continue to come in about as we expect".

"The Federal Open Market Committee has made significant tactical adjustments along the way", she said. Not this year, for sure, with the European Central Bank set to maintain its monetary stimulus programme.

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However, Yellen said, "I now see no evidence that the Federal Reserve has fallen behind the curve". Fed Chair Yellen stated, "given how close we are to meting our statutory goals, and in the absence of new developments that might materially worsen the economic outlook, the process of scaling back accommodation likely will not be as slow as it was in 2015 and 2016".

USA consumer spending cooled in January as demand for automobiles and utilities fell, but inflation recorded its biggest monthly increase in four years, raising the probability of an interest rate hike from the Fed this month. "If Yellen's remarks also point to a rate hike in the near future, this will weigh on the gold price", Commerzbank said in a note.

Yellen said that "the ongoing expansion has been the slowest since World War II, with real GDP growth averaging only about two percent per year" because of "slower growth in the labor force in recent years. and disappointing productivity growth both in the United States and overseas".

"There's nothing that I said that would be a response to possible impending policy changes" agreed to by President Donald Trump and Congress, she said.

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She is set to speak at 1:00pm ET (1800 GMT) at the Executives Club of Chicago. "The Fed is notorious for waiting until the evidence of growth is absolutely undeniable".


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