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US Dollar up as Fed says labor and housing markets are improving

US stocks ended higher on Wednesday as Federal Reserve left the rates unchanged and stated the US economy continued to strengthen. The US dollar strengthened, with the ICE US dollar index, a measure of dollar’s strength against a basket of six currencies, adding 0.5%. S&P 500 index rose 0.7%, the energy sector leading the gains with 1.28% increase. The Fed said the economy is expanding “moderately”, upgraded its assessment of labor market while saying housing market showed “additional” improvement. The statement said Fed needs to see “some further improvement in the labor market”, adding the modifier “some” to the wording of its previous meeting statement. The policymakers left the market’s expectations of rate hike later in the year virtually unchanged, stating they need to see labor markets improve further and reiterating the Fed must be “reasonably confident” inflation will move back to its 2% goal over the medium term. Today at 13:30 CET second quarter preliminary GDP and Personal Consumption will be released in US. The tentative outlook is positive as growth is expected to rebound to 2.5% and first-quarter GDP will likely get revised upward due to improved methodology of seasonal adjustments to GDP components. At the same time Initial Jobless Claims and Continuing Claims will be released. And at 15:30 CET Natural Gas Storage Change will be released by the Energy Information Agency.

European stocks rose on Wednesday on strong earnings reports and corporate takeover bids while the euro weakened against the dollar ahead of FOMC statement. The Stoxx Europe 600 gained 1.0%. German HeidelbergCement fell more than 6% after news it plans to take a 45% stake in Italy’s Italcementi for €1.67 billion. Italcementi soared 49%. Italian oil group Saipem fell 3.4% after lowering its annual forecast and plans to cut 8,800 jobs by 2017. Peugeot gained 6% after the car maker reported its first profit of 571 million euros since 2011. So far this quarter 53% of companies on the pan-European STOXX 600 index have met or beaten market expectations with their results. Today at 10:00 CET July economic, consumer and business confidence indexes will be published in euro-zone. The tentative outlook is positive for euro. At 13:00 CET July preliminary consumer price index will be released in Germany. The tentative outlook is neutral. And tomorrow at 7:00 CET June Retail Sales will be released in Germany. The tentative outlook is positive.

Nikkei rallied 1.1% today on strong blue-chip corporate reports as yen weakened against the dollar. Tomorrow at 0:30 CET June Unemployment Rate, Household Spending and Consumer Price Index will be released in Japan. The tentative outlook is negative. At 6:00 CET June Housing Starts will be released. The tentative outlook is negative.

Chinese stocks were lower today on reports banks were investigating their exposure to the stock market from wealth management products and loans with stocks as collateral.

Oil prices rose sharply on Wednesday as official data showed US weekly crude inventories fell by 4.2 million barrels, more than twenty times the expected decrease. At the same time US oil production in the lower 48 states also fell by 151 thousand barrels to total 8.95 million barrels a day.

Gold prices edged higher on Wednesday but remained near last week's 5-1/2-year low as investors tried to assess the likelihood of interest rate hike in September.

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