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Yellen takes case for Fed's easy money policies to the public

By Jonathan Spicer CHICAGO (Reuters) - Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Monday took a page from a politician's playbook to defend the U.S. central bank's easy-money policies, citing the struggles of three Americans in a speech and touring a college workshop to shake hands with students and teachers.

Japan shoppers see first sales tax rise in 17 years

The price of everything from beer and sushi to cars and dishwashers will rise across Japan Tuesday as shoppers are greeted by the first sales tax rise in 17 years, which has prompted fears of a drop in consumer spending. Tokyo approved the move to hike the levy from 5.0 percent to 8.0 percent as of April 1 in a bid to tame a massive public debt burden. The government is also mulling another rise to 10 percent, still modest compared some nations' consumption tax.

Yellen signals that job market will need Fed's continued low-rate policies 'for some time'

WASHINGTON - Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen made clear Monday that she thinks the still-subpar U.S. job market will continue to need the help of low interest rates "for some time." Yellen's remarks signalled that even after the Fed phases out its monthly bond purchases later this year, it has no plans to raise a key short-term rate anytime soon. The bond purchases have been intended to keep long-term loan rates low.

Yellen: Slack US labor market still needs Fed support

Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen argued Monday that the US labor market remains slack and that Fed policy needs to stay focused on generating jobs. In the clearest delineation of her priorities since taking the helm of the central bank in February, Yellen said the steady fall in the official unemployment rate to 6.7 percent masks deep weaknesses in the jobs market. In a speech in Chicago, she pointed in particular to the high level of people unemployed for a long term, despite the rebound from the Great Recession.

Japan factory output fall underscores uneven recovery

Japanese factory output contracted in February, data showed Monday, a surprise decline that highlighted the uneven economic recovery in the world's number three economy as consumers brace for a sales tax hike. The 2.3 percent fall in output from January -- the first decline in three months -- is likely to aggravate concerns about the potential impact of the increased levy, which takes effect on Tuesday.

Japan factory output falls 2.3% on-month in February

Japan's industrial output in February fell 2.3 percent month-on-month, slipping after a 3.8 percent expansion in January, government data showed Monday. Economists had widely predicted a 0.3 percent rise, and the February contraction was the first decrease in output in three months. oh/pb/jw

Moody's puts Russia on review for downgrade

Moody's put Russia's credit rating on review for a possible downgrade Friday, saying the Ukraine crisis could exacerbate its already troubled economy. Moody's said it "expects that the increased economic uncertainty triggered by the conflict with Ukraine will contribute to an economic GDP contraction of around 1.0 percent in 2014, against pre-crisis expectations of growth of around 2 percent." pmh/vlk

Fed's George wants end to zero rates, does not say when

By Carey Gillam KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A top Federal Reserve official who has often warned of the risks of keeping U.S. interest rates too low for too long said on Friday she wants to see how winding down the Fed's massive bond-buying stimulus goes before setting out any path for rate hikes.

European stocks push higher on positive data

Europe's main stock markets finished the trading week on a high, closing significantly higher Friday on data showing eurozone consumers in bullish mood and comments from China's prime minister on stimulus. London's benchmark FTSE 100 index shrugged off weaker-than-expected British growth data to close up 0.41 percent to 6,615.58 points. In Paris, the CAC 40 rose 0.74 percent to 4,411.26 points, while the DAX 30 in Frankfurt was up 1.44 percent to finish at 9,587.19 points.

Japan February consumer inflation steady, spending hit by weather

By Tetsushi Kajimoto and Stanley White TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's core consumer prices rose for a ninth straight month in March from a year earlier and labor demand improved - further evidence the economy is making headway against years of deflation and stagnation. Ministry of Finance data showed household spending and retail sales weakened in February as snowstorms across Japan kept many consumers at home, but there are already signs that sales are accelerating this month as shoppers rush to beat a sales tax hike on April 1.
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