1. As expected, the Fed raised its benchmark rate this week. According to Quant-Insight's models, inflation expectations continue to be the primary driver of movements in U.S. rates and assets. Rising digital traffic related to inflation expectations suggests U.S. consumers and market observers are starting to believe that inflation, which has remained persistently low, may finally pick up.
Meanwhile, after naming Jerome Powell next Fed chairman, President Trump still has three governorship positions to fill, including vice chair. The White House has begun vetting candidates, with nominations expected to come early next year. Our signals for potential candidates showed that former PIMCO CEO Mohammad El-Erian and San Francisco Fed Governor John C. Williams drew spikes in digital interest in the past weeks.
2. In the U.S. Congress, the GOP says it has the votes to pass a reconciled version of the tax reform bill. A final vote is expected Tuesday or Wednesday. The bill remains unpopular with most voters. Yet, as our signals capturing digital interest show, online audiences have not been paying increased attention to tax reform during the final legislative push. This attention trend differs starkly from that for the GOP effort to pass an Affordable Care Act repeal and replace bill, when a noisy, engaged public pressured lawmakers to abandon the legislation.
3. Online audiences were also paying attention to U.S. healthcare this week as the deadline for ObamaCare open enrollment was Friday.
4. Bitcoin mania continued, with the price of the cryptocurrency nearing $18,000. For weeks we've been writing that digital traffic patterns indicate speculation has been driving the recent bitcoin boom.
5. And in Brazil, embattled president Michel Temer failed to secure the votes in a first effort to pass desperately-needed pension reform. Markets reacted negatively to the setback with Brazil's benchmark Bovespa index falling 1 percent on the news. Our signal that captures popular resistance to social system reform rose dramatically ahead of the vote. The public, it appears, was paying attention to the legislative effort, raising the pressure on lawmakers.
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