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BOJ upholds upbeat regional economic views, but wary of tax hike impact

The Bank of Japan kept intact Thursday its upbeat assessment of the country's nine regional economies, noting their economies are on a "recovery" path on the back of improvement in employment and income circumstances. But all nine regions said their economies have started to be affected by the April 1 consumption tax hike -- the first in 17 years -- the central bank said in its quarterly "Sakura Report" on regional economies released after a meeting of the BOJ's branch managers.

Japan's March consumer confidence down to lowest in 2.5 yrs

Japan's consumer confidence deteriorated in March to the lowest level since August 2011, the government said Thursday, indicating mounting concern that the consumption tax hike in April will drag down the nation's economy. The seasonally adjusted index of sentiment among households made up of two or more people fell 1.0 point from the previous month to 37.5, down for the fourth straight month, the Cabinet Office said. Readings below 50 indicate pessimists outnumber optimists.

Weak U.S. prices, not inflation, the threat now: Fed's Yellen

By Jonathan Spicer NEW YORK (Reuters) - Persistently low inflation poses a more immediate threat to the U.S. economy than rising prices, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Wednesday, stressing that the U.S. central bank would be delivering policy stimulus for some time to come.

China eases with reserve cut for rural banks

China will cut the amount of funds that rural banks must keep in reserve, state media said, in a small easing of monetary policy by the government as it tries to provide support to the slowing economy. The powerful State Council, China's cabinet, said it would allow a cut in the reserve requirements for some county-level commercial banks and cooperative banks in rural areas, the official Xinhua news agency said late Wednesday, but gave no details.

Senate Democrats seek minimum wage boost to $10.10, but some workers would still be exempted

WASHINGTON - Some low-paid workers won't benefit even if a long-shot Democratic proposal to raise the federal minimum wage becomes law. More than a dozen categories of jobs are exempt from the minimum, currently $7.25 an hour. Those exclusions, rooted in labour law history, run from some workers with disabilities to crews on fishing ships to casual baby sitters.

Senate Democrats seek minimum wage boost to $10.10, but some workers would still be exempted

WASHINGTON - Some low-paid workers won't benefit even if a long-shot Democratic proposal to raise the federal minimum wage becomes law. More than a dozen categories of jobs are exempt from the minimum, currently $7.25 an hour. Those exclusions, rooted in labour law history, run from some workers with disabilities to crews on fishing ships to casual baby sitters.

Fed survey: Economic growth picks up across most of the United States as harsh winter recedes

WASHINGTON - A Federal Reserve survey shows economic growth picking up across most of the United States over the past two months as bitter winter weather subsided. Ten of the Fed's 12 regions reported an increase in economic activity, according to the Beige Book survey released Wednesday. In most places, the Fed described the improvement as "modest or moderate." Only Cleveland and St. Louis reported slower growth.

Fed survey: Economic growth picks up across most of the United States as harsh winter recedes

WASHINGTON - A Federal Reserve survey shows economic growth picking up across most of the United States over the past two months as bitter winter weather subsided. Ten of the Fed's 12 regions reported an increase in economic activity, according to the Beige Book survey released Wednesday. In most places, the Fed described the improvement as "modest or moderate." Only Cleveland and St. Louis reported slower growth.

BoC's Poloz shaves forecast, won't rule out interest rate cuts in future

OTTAWA - Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz says he has not ruled out a future cut to interest rates despite evidence disinflationary pressures appear to be waning and his belief that the global and Canadian recoveries are picking up steam. "We are neutral, that mean's a rate cut cannot be taken off the table at this stage," Poloz said during a news conference Wednesday. "It will depend on the data flow." Poloz made the comment after the central bank decided to keep its trendsetting overnight rate at one per cent, where it has been since September 2010.

Fed chief Yellen says key task of central bank is to respond to US economy's fluctuations

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Wednesday that the U.S. job market still needs help from the Fed and that the central bank must remain intent on adjusting its policy to respond to unforeseen challenges. In her first major speech on Fed policy, Yellen sought to explain the Fed's shifting guidance on its interest-rate policy, which at times has confused or jarred investors. She said the Fed's policies "must respond to significant unexpected twist and turns the economy may make."
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