1. Business
  2. Morning briefing
February 27, 2018

Morning briefing: French rail reform / Jay Powell in the Fed hot seat / Ireland wraps Brexit meeting in Brussels

By Billy

Good morning, here’s your Tuesday morning briefing to set you up for the day ahead. Look out for these three things happening around the world today.

France’s trade unions respond to Macron’s rail reform proposals

French president Emmanuel Macron is on a collision course with rail worker unions today over government plans to push through sweeping rail reforms.

Macron wants France’s state-owned SNCF rail company — which has debts of €45 billion ($55 billion) — to give up some of its worker privileges, with its drivers among the best-protected French public sector employees.

The French government is has said it will bypass parliament if necessary to push through measures that could include the abolition of longstanding jobs-for-life guarantees for workers.

Union leaders will meet today to discuss possible strike action next month against the reforms.

Jay Powell in first Fed chair outing

Jay Powell will make his first outing as US Federal Reserve chair today, delivering the semi-annual monetary policy testimony to Congress.

Powell is expected to discuss policy and be grilled by members of the House and Senate.

Markets and investors are closely watching for signals that the Fed is leaning towards four rounds of tightening this year, with few expecting Powell to sway unduly from the existing trajectory of interest rate rises.

A rate increase is expected at next month’s Federal Open Market meeting.

Meanwhile, the S&P 500 index gained more than 1% overnight for the second straight session and the Vix volatility gauge slipped back below 16% for the first time in more than three weeks.

Ireland wraps Brexit meeting in Brussels as May meets cabinet

Ireland’s deputy head of government Simon Coveney will wrap up two days of meetings about the UK’s exit from the European Union in Brussels today.

Coveney’s spokesman said the Tánaiste was “fully satisfied” Ireland’s concerns over maintaining an open border with Northern Ireland would be reflected in a new EU legal text.

Meanwhile, a full meeting of the British government cabinet is expected to be briefed today on prime minister Theresa May’s discussions with senior colleagues about Brexit last week.