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"Interest rates are still low by historical standards, and they remain just below the broad range of estimates of the level that would be neutral for the economy - that is, neither speeding up nor slowing down growth", Powell told the Economic Club of NY. On Wednesday, addressing a conference in New York, Mr. Powell amplified that message, saying that rates are just below the Fed's range of estimates for neutral.
Despite the dovish comments from Fed officials, there was no large scale US dollar selloff, partly due to the strength of the US economy, weakening growth elsewhere, and dollar's own status as a safe haven amid the Sino-US trade war.
China's economy is already under pressure, with a survey earlier on today showing its vast manufacturing sector growth stalled for the first time in over two years in November as new orders shrank. An index of emerging currencies surged 1.4 percent to a 10-day high.
Sterling was last trading at $1.2784, down 0.31 percent on the day, after Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warned a disorderly Brexit could trigger a worse economic downturn for Britain than the financial crisis. All told, investors surmised the Fed is likely to reduce the number of hikes or outright stop them next year.
Powell said he considers the Fed's benchmark interest rate to be near a neutral level, an important distinction from remarks he made less than two months ago. "Now investors are true believers - and are reacting accordingly".
"If Trump were able to get those additional concessions from China at this meeting, and announce certainly no trade deal, but. a commitment to further negotiations to work towards a deal and in the interim not see further escalation, then that's something markets would latch onto", Page added. The reading easily topped market forecasts.
Investors will watch for the minutes from the Fed's November 7-8 meeting, due on Thursday, for clues to policy in 2019. The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.20 percent.
But markets were focused less on such subtleties than on what Powell's assessment of where rates are means for the future path of rate hikes.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 27.59 points, or 0.11 percent, to 25,338.84, the S&P 500 lost 5.99 points, or 0.22 percent, to 2,737.8 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 18.51 points, or 0.25 percent, to 7,273.08.
USA crude futures were up 0.8 percent at US$50.66 per barrel after sliding 2.5 percent the previous day.
Brent crude LCOc1 rose 51 cents to $59.27per barrel.
The S&P 500 index rose 12 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,695.
The euro advanced 0.7 percent.
The British pound gained 0.6 percent.
The contract's price was last up 4.5 basis points to the highest since early September and carried an implied yield of 2.70 percent.
The global platinum market will be oversupplied by around half a million ounces both this year and next, an industry report said, suggesting little respite for producers facing prices languishing near 10-year lows.