Rate hikes a distant prospect for more upbeat Federal Reserve

WASHINGTON,| Wed Apr 25, 2012 – The Federal Reserve may appear slightly more upbeat on the economy on Wednesday, though investors should not mistake this cautious optimism for any desire to raise interest rates soon.

Instead, central bank officials will probably reiterate their expectations that official borrowing costs will remain near zero until at least late 2014, and leave open the option to ease policy further if the economy worsens.

“The meeting tomorrow is unlikely to provide any new clues to the Fed’s next actions, rather leaving open the possibility of new measures depending on the economic outlook,” said Richard Gilhooly, a bond market strategist at TD Securities.

Investors wishing for clues to the prospect of a further easing of monetary policy from the central bank may be disappointed, leaving the stock market vulnerable to some selling. Analysts will be keen for any hints of action following the end of the Fed’s Operation Twist, its latest effort aimed at keeping down long-term rates.

Tiffany gives upbeat 2012 forecast, aided by expansion

NEW YORK, Tue Mar 20, 2012 – Tiffany & Co. forecast higher sales for 2012, helped by further expansion in Asia and the Americas, and the high-end jeweler said that after a bumpy holiday season, business so far this year was on track with its projections.

Shares of the company were up 3.7 percent at $71.25 in premarket trading.

The New York-based chain said in January that its U.S. and European customers had been “restrained” in their shopping because of volatile stock markets and the eurozone crisis, leading to softer-than-expected sales for the important holiday season.

“That was the first warning that the luxury party was coming to an end, but now it seems it was just a speed bump,” said Morningstar analyst Paul Swinand.

U.S. stock markets have since rallied, and the debt crisis in Europe has eased. In a statement, Tiffany CEO Michael Kowalski said global sales growth so far this year was “tracking in line” with the company’s expectations.

Tiffany expects fiscal-year global net sales to be up 10 percent, led by gains in Asia and the Americas. That would be an improvement over the soft holiday sales, but still below last year’s 18 percent clip.

The company forecast a profit of between $3.95 and $4.05 per share, above Wall Street estimates of $3.93, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.