RBF UCITS Monthly - April 2018

  • The Fund’s ID USD class fell 2.47%
  • Geopolitical concerns ease following conciliatory trade tones from US and China
  • USTs sold-off on renewed inflation concerns
  • Offshore renminbi up 4.71% year to date, in total return terms
  • UST curve could continue to flatten and eventually invert

Geopolitical concerns eased with more conciliatory tones from China and the US officials, and the unofficial announcement of a meeting in China in May to discuss trade tariffs. Suggestions of North Korea’s denuclearisation following the historic Korean Summit also supported the risk-on sentiment towards the end of the month. Bumper Treasury issuance, a spike in oil prices and broadly robust US economic data prints led to renewed US inflation expectations and the yield on the 10-year US Treasury spike above the 3% psychological level, eventually closing 21bps higher at 2.95% over the month. Interestingly, the UST curve did flatten during the month and the spread between the 2s10s, 5s30s and 2s30s remained at decade lows. Meanwhile, the dollar gained momentum rising over 2% last month, and as we mentioned oil spiked higher, with Brent closing 16.7% higher, above $75pb. 

Although the offshore renminbi fell 0.64% against the dollar over the month, it was one of the better performing currencies against the stronger dollar and remains up 4.71% year to date in total return terms. China March activity data surprised to the upside and growth was in-line with market expectations at 6.8% yoy. Domestic growth was a key driver of expansion in the first quarter this year suggesting the economic model transformation is underway, and the economy less reliant on external growth; positive news in the face of trade tensions. Also of interest was the PBoC’s 100bps RRR cut for certain banks. We do not see this as a change to the current prudent and neutral policy stance, rather an opening up of interbank liquidity and part of China’s continued drive of interest rate marketisation reforms; as highlighted by the central bank’s Governor Yi Gang at the Boao Forum.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - March 2018

  • The Fund’s ID USD class was up 1.07%; up 1.65% ytd
  • Concerns over trade war shakes asset markets
  • UST curve flattens due to material supply at short-end
  • Offshore renminbi (CNH) gains ~1% against dollar in March; up 4% ytd
  • New Chair Powell says Fed will remain flexible and gradual in normalising

A rollercoaster March ended what was a very uneasy quarter across asset classes. Markets appeared the least bit concerned about the Fed’s well publicised and priced-in 25bps hike, to 1.50%-1.75%, with focus shifting to what newswires referred to as the beginnings of a trade war. Mr Trump’s introduction of “flexible” 25% steel and 10% aluminium tariffs, followed by attacks on China’s alleged IP infringement and announcement of USD 50bn worth of tariffs on Chinese imports appeared to shake markets. This coupled with the negative performance across the US tech sector saw equity markets tumble over the month with the S&P Index closing in negative territory year-to-date. Meanwhile, the yield on the 10-year UST fell 12bps to 2.74%, having traded as high as 2.92% intra-month. Incidentally the UST curve flattened, the spread between the 2- and 10-years fell to fresh 10-year lows; with the bulk of UST issuance at the shorter-end of the curve, we may see further flattening. The dollar could not hold on to its strong start; the DXY Index tumbled 0.71%, falling below the 90 level, which supported the CNH ~1% appreciation. Brent crude traded 6.83% higher in March, closing above $70pb following the appointment of John Bolton as US national security advisor; sanction tensions with Iran could be resurrected.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - February 2018

  •  The Fund’s ID USD class was down 2.12%
  •  Risk-off sentiment saw all asset classes come under pressure in February
  •  S&P upgrade Russia’s long-term rating to investment grade
  •  Inflation and growth upside risks may be overhyped

A difficult February witnessed further erratic moves across asset markets. More hawkish central bank tones, upside risks to inflation and global growth, and a huge amount of UST issuance did little to calm rising yields. The yield on the 10-year UST for example jumped 16bps to 2.86%, while the 30-year sold-off 19bps to 3.13%. Stock markets also struggled to maintain their upward momentum, and the dollar (DXY Index) finally found its feet mid-month to close 1.66% higher, however, still down year-to-date.

In terms of US inflation ‘hysteria’, we had expected a bounce at the beginning of the year, and still remain of the view that it is a short-term theme as there are several indicators (such as vehicle sales and mortgage delinquencies, for example), which paint a much more pessimistic view of the economy. However, the market has clearly reacted more than we had expected. So, a difficult month for our long-only portfolios but we still believe that this is an inflationary blip, not a constant move higher in prices. We continue to monitor the situation daily.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - January 2018

  • The Fund’s ID USD class was up 2.75% in January
  • Renminbi rallied 3.41% against dollar
  • Russian quasi-sovereign positions remained resilient; no further US sanctions
  • New Fed Chair Powell expected to follow in Yellen’s gradual hike footsteps

Markets appeared to have woken up from their holiday slumber in an erratic mood last month as all manner of indiscriminate asset class moves were witnessed. There were a number of factors which lead to the sell-off in USTs including: concerns of increased sovereign supply, knee-jerk reactions to the BOJ ‘stealth-taper’ and ECB’s more hawkish outlook (although the message still seems somewhat mixed). The yield on the 10-year benchmark rose 30bps, to 2.71%. Meanwhile, the dollar suffered another relentless fall, which helped the offshore renminbi’s 3.41% spot appreciation against the greenback; to its strongest level since the devaluation in August 2015. Brent also enjoyed a bounce last month, gaining 3.26%. Elsewhere, equity markets witnessed a defensive tone towards the end of the month, with all three major US indices tumbling off all-time highs and the VIX (volatility) Index witnessed a spike higher.

China data also surprised to the upside, with growth for 2017 released at 6.9%; the first year of acceleration in growth since 2010. With growth outperforming and SOE debt-to-asset ratios falling, policymakers can push forth with their deleveraging and de-risking drive, and supply-side reform. Elsewhere, the FOMC meeting was pretty uneventful, as expected, although erring on the hawkish side, following a pick-up in inflation; although it was noted that inflation remains soft and is expected to pick up in the medium-term.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - December 2017

• The Fund’s ID USD Class gained 2.04% in December, up 16.19% for the year
• US Fed hikes interest rate by 25bps to 1.25%-1.50%
• Offshore renminbi (CNH) up 1.59% versus USD in December, and +7.09% ytd in spot terms
• An extra 4.70% was added to returns from the carry of buying CNH forward
• China looks for quality growth over pace of expansion

The Fund performed well in December, the ID USD Class gained 2.04%; performance for the year was +16.19%. 

The Fed’s well publicised rate hike did little to upset markets last month. The bigger news, however, was the passing of the US tax bill; where corporation tax was sliced to a permanent 21% (from 35%) and a number of less permanent tax breaks for individuals were introduced. There is no doubt, however, that this debt-financed tax overhaul will lead to an increase in the country's already huge budget deficit; so it will be interesting to see if a predicted spike in growth, forecast to be 2.5% in 2018, would help counter the ~USD1.5tn borrowing over the next 10 years. US Treasuries sold-off after the news broke, eventually closing the month relatively unchanged at 2.406%. Also of interest was the US Treasury yield curve flattening, which saw the spread between the 2-year and 10-year benchmarks fall to decade lows during the month, and the spread between the 5s30s tightened to 10-year lows on the penultimate trading day. Meanwhile, the dollar retreated further, with the DXY Index falling ~1% in December; closing the year almost 10% lower.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - November 2017

  • The Fund’s USD ID Class is up 13.87% year to date
  • US Treasury curve bull-flattened over the month to decade low spreads
  • Offshore renminbi gained 0.20% against the dollar in October
  • China's activity data slightly softer, but growth still robust

Asset markets remained fickle to political and policy headlines in November, as such the yield on the 10-year US Treasury waxed and waned, eventually closing the month marginally unchanged, at 2.38%. Interestingly, the UST yield curve bull-flattened last month, with the spread between the 5 and 30-year tightening to ten-year lows; historically this measure has been used as a recession indicator - the tighter the spread and more inverted the curve the stronger the trigger. At this stage of the cycle, we do not expect a US recession. The Fed’s Bullard, however, does appear concerned saying, “given below target inflation, it’s unnecessary to push normalisation to such an extent that the yield curve inverts”. Meanwhile, despite the US Senate’s 51-49 vote on tax-cut legislation and broad pick-up in economic data prints, the dollar fell 1.59% over the month.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - October 2017

•   The Fund’s IDUSD Class was up 0.33%
•   Offshore renminbi up 0.24% versus dollar
•   IMF raises global growth forecasts for 2017 and 2018; China’s at 6.8% for 2017
•   US data robust; but inflation lacklustre and fiscal policy in progress

A mixed October saw the yield on the 10-year US Treasury yoyo from lows of 2.27% to highs of 2.475%, eventually closing only 5bps higher on the month, at 2.38%. Improving US economic data prints, excitement around the drafted tax-plan and anticipation surrounding the Fed Chair position fuelled the initial sell-off in US Treasuries and rally in the dollar; which broke through 94, measured by the DXY Index, up 1.59% over the month. Meanwhile, Brent futures enjoyed a rally to two-and-a-half year highs, rising above $60 per barrel, off the back of the expected supply cut extension, and the offshore renminbi gained 0.24% against the dollar.

The IMF bumped up its global growth forecasts to 3.6% in 2017 and 3.7% in 2018 (from 3.5% and 3.6%, respectively) as a result of further economic expansion in China, the US, eurozone and Japan. The Fund suggested that policymakers should take advantage of the current benign global economic environment to boost growth within their economies, as a protective measure against the next financial downturn. The IMF warned that wealthier nations should consider keeping monetary policy loose until inflation firms up. The Fund forecasts China growth at 6.8% this year and 6.5% for 2018, while PBoC governor Zhou expects growth at 6.9%. He also highlighted concerns over corporate debt, adding that the central bank’s priority is to deleverage and manage financial risks.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - September 2017

  • The Fund’s USD ID Class was down 1.41% in September; up 13.01% year to date
  • Fed held rates, but more hawkish rhetoric insinuates a further rate hike in December
  • China data remains resilient; growth expected within target
  • Russia's long-term debt outlook upgraded to positive by Fitch
  • Tax reform and subsequent effect on debt ceiling will be monitored closely

A mixed month across asset markets was once again driven by geopolitics and central bank rhetoric. Fed Chair Yellen’s seemingly hawkish tones drove a sell-off in UST yields; this was further compounded by the proposed ‘revolutionary’ US tax plan. What concerns us is the tax-plan’s eventual effect on the debt ceiling; we expect to hear more on this by year-end. Nonetheless, the yield on the 10-year UST was up 22bps and USD gained momentum; the DXY Index closed the month 0.44% higher. 

Meanwhile, the Fed held rates at 1%-1.25%, we heard further mixed messages from Fed members with those in acceptance of lowly inflation calling for further hikes, while others remained concerned of hiking too quickly with lacklustre price pressures. The futures market, however, received a wake-up call after Yellen’s address, where she reiterated that a December hike is clearly a possibility. Gold unsurprisingly nosedived in September; meanwhile Brent rallied 7.48%. 

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RBF UCITS Monthly - August 2017

  • Chinese renminbi rallied against the dollar; currency is up 5.74% year-to-date
  • The Fund’s ID USD  Class was up 3.15% in August; +14.63% year to date.
  • US Treasury and Middle Eastern holdings outperformed
  • US-North Korea tensions expected to remain elevated
  • Expect renminbi to continue steady appreciation; benefiting from safe haven flows

Geopolitics commanded market focus in August as North Korea launched a number of threatening ballistic missiles. US-North Korea tensions overshadowed broadly positive data releases out of the US where, for example, the second estimate for Q2’17 GDP was revised up to 3% and the US ISM manufacturing reading for August bounced to its highest reading since 2011. Towards the end of the month, US Treasury yields dipped to their lowest level so far this year, and closed 18bps lower over the month, at 2.12%. Meanwhile, the dollar also suffered further weakness, with the DXY index falling 0.21% in August, having also tumbled to year lows during the month.

Elsewhere, the Chinese renminbi rallied to 15-month lows against the dollar; gaining 5.74% so far this year, on a spot basis. We calculate the carry on the offshore currency stands at 3.16% year-to-date, with total return at 8.9% against the dollar. China data releases remained supportive of growth last month.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - July 2017

  • The Fund’s USD I Class was up 1.75% in July; +11.12% year to date.
  • China’s economic data robust, offshore renminbi up 0.75% against dollar
  • Fed left rates and QE unchanged; balance sheet unwind to start ‘relatively soon’
  • US data continues to broadly disappoint; IMF revises US growth forecasts lower

A broadly positive month witnessed a collapse in cross-asset volatility; the VIX index fell to all-time lows during the month, while the Merrill Lynch Move Index dived to its lowest level since it was first published in 1988. The Move Index measures the volatility on one-month UST options based on the 2,5,10 and 30-year benchmarks. Other big moves came from commodities: Brent crude rallied 9.87%, and copper traded up 7.28% over the month; off the back of better than expected China data.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - June 2017

• The Fund’s USD I Class was down 0.27% in June
• Fed hiked rates by 25bps to 1%‐1.25%. Balance sheet unwind expected later this year
• US data continues to broadly disappoint; IMF revises US growth forecasts lower
• IMF upgrades China growth to 6.7%. China data remains stable
• MSCI Inc announces China A‐share inclusion in EM Index. ‘Bond Connect’ launches in July

A mixed month for asset classes saw market sentiment driven mostly by new‐found central bank hawkishness. The Fed hiked rates by 25bps to a still historically low range of 1%‐1.25%. The Fed also announced that caps will be applied to the reinvestment of maturing assets in the unwind of the balance sheet, and expectations are for a September announcement, with some members calling for a ‘glacial’ and ‘baby step’ approach. US data releases through last month were broadly disappointing, although the Fed said it is not going to let data ‘noise’ detract it from its course of normalisation, markets were still impacted. The yield on the 10‐year US Treasury, for example, fell to year lows after the weak retail sales and disappointing CPI readings were released for May. However, on the back of the more hawkish Fed rhetoric, and broader positive market sentiment towards global growth, although still subdued ‐ alongside lacklustre inflation ‐ the yield on the 10‐year UST bounced 10bps higher to 2.31%. The dollar (DXY Index) however remained on the back foot falling 1.34% over the month.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - May 2017

• Positive month sees Fund’s USD I Class gain 3.09% in May; up 9.51% ytd
• US data broadly surprised to the downside; inflation remains stubbornly low
• PBoC added “counter-cyclical factor” tweak to fixing mechanism
• Russian quasi-sovereign issues continue to outperform
• US Fed remain on track to hike in June

In May geopolitics in the US and Brazil dominated focus in what was generally a positive month for credit markets. The 10-year US Treasury benefitted from the broader risk-off tone falling 8bps to 2.20%, while the dollar remained on the back foot once again, falling 2.15%, measured by the DXY index. President Trump came under fire as allegations that he had obstructed a federal investigation hit the newswires; with some commentators calling for his impeachment. Some semblance of normality followed the knee-jerk reactions after Trump’s first foreign trip was deemed a ‘success’. US data however remained mixed and concerns over stubbornly low inflation remained a theme; the Fed’s favoured core PCE deflator reading (at 1.5% yoy) fell to the lowest level since December 2015.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - April 2017

• The Fund’s IDUSD Class gained 0.64% in April
• Sino-US trade relationship sentiment improves
• US data disappoints, while China’s economy remains resilient
• Sovereign holdings in the Middle East outperform along with US Treasuries
• Futures markets pricing in a US rate hike in June

A broadly mixed month across asset classes saw the yield on the 10-year Treasury fall to year lows of 2.169% during the month on the back of heightened global geopolitical concerns, however market sentiment improved into month-end and the benchmark eventually closed at 2.28%, 11bps lower on the month. Oil prices remained volatile once again in April, with Brent crude climbing to highs above $56.60 mid-month and falling back below $52; down over 2% over the month. Meanwhile equity markets continued their rally with the likes of the DAX index racing to all-time highs, while the VIX Index, a measure of volatility spiked to 5 month highs above 16, ending the month at 10 year lows.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - March 2017

• Fed hiked rates by 25bps to 0.75-1%
• China data remains supportive of growth momentum
• Fund’s USD I Class gained 0.43% in March
• Sovereign and quasi-sovereign issues from the Middle East outperformed
• Added a number of new issues including Oman and Kuwait government

A mixed month saw the yield on the 10-year US Treasury spike as high as 2.627% during March, eventually closing marginally lower over the month at 2.388%; as Trump-euphoria began to wane. The President abandoned the health care bill vote, thus expectations for future reform - such as the deployment of fiscal spending and the overhaul to the tax bill - hung in the balance. Softer US sentiment saw the dollar continue its retreat through the month, falling 0.76%. Meanwhile, as was widely expected, and priced in, the FOMC hiked the Fed’s funds target rate by 25bps mid-month to 0.75-1%; the futures market ended the month pricing a 56.7% chance of a further hike in June this year.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - February 2017

• Positive month for bonds; Fund’s USD I Class gained 0.96%
• Stronger data and Fed speaker comments shift market expectations to a March rate hike
• Credit markets well supported and new issuance was readily absorbed
• US dollar strengthens on a trade weighted basis;
• Fund’s 100% CNH overlay has gained 1.79% year-to-date against the strong US dollar

February was a positive month for asset markets: equity markets such as the S&P 500 reached new highs as data releases buoyed optimism about an improving growth outlook. Accompanying this, market expectations for a US rate rise shifted forward so that by month end the Fed Futures were discounting ~80 percent chance of a rate hike in March having been closer to 30 percent earlier in the month. This reflected a slew of generally strong data releases, Janet Yellen’s testimony to US congress and commentary from Fed officials. Later in the month, William Dudley, a known ‘dove’ and voter on the FOMC, stated ‘the case for monetary policy tightening has become a lot more compelling’. In spite of this, the yield on the 10 year US Treasury compressed 6 basis points to end the month at 2.39% and the yield curve flattened; we see the Fed as acting ahead of the curve and expect the yield curve to continue to flatten. The US dollar index gained 1.62% over the month helped by the stronger data and mounting expectations for a rate rise.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - January 2017

• Offshore renminbi (CNH) appreciated 2.17% against the dollar
• The Fund’s USD I Class gained 4.10% in January.
• China data releases indicate economic stabilisation
• Largest contributors to performance were holdings in Middle East and CNH overlay
• The more dovish Fed is on hold given the uncertainty of the new US presidential administration

A broadly positive month for risk assets saw the offshore renminbi appreciate 2.17% against the dollar, and 2.79% on a total return basis. Last month President Xi Jinping took centre stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the first for any Chinese leader. High up on his agenda was the importance of economic globalisation and free trade; in the face of less trade-friendly US rhetoric. Jinping also echoed what Chinese policymakers have reiterated time and time again, that it is not their wish to devalue the renminbi to make exports more competitive. Instead their intention is to manage the redback against the recently expanded CFETS currency basket; of which the dollar is a large component. With non-manufacturing activities making up over half China’s GDP, coupled with the efforts to reform the country’s economy to more sustainable, consumer-led growth it would be counterintuitive to devalue the renminbi.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - December 2016

• Fed raises rates by 25bp to 0.75%, and forecasts three rate hikes in 2017
• Trump rally sees the dollar hit all-time highs; renminbi remains stable against CFETS basket
• China data surprises on the upside, economy is stabilising
• Russian quasi-sovereign holdings outperform
• A cloud of political uncertainty lies ahead

Markets ended on a more positive note last month, but the year closed with a dark cloud of political uncertainty hanging over Brexit and the Trump administration. As we had expected, the Fed raised rates by 25bps to 0.75% and pencilled in an additional hike in 2017; taking it to three forecasted hikes. The Treasury market swung around in December, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year peaking as high as 2.60% post-Fed announcement, finally closing at 2.45%. The dollar also gathered pace, hitting an all-time high ahead of the month-end; the DXY Index closed 0.7% higher on the month.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - November 2016

• A tumultuous month across asset markets resulting from the unexpected US Election outcome
• Renminbi remains relatively resilient against the stronger dollar, versus other major currencies
• Global bond yields reprice as growth and inflation expectations are revised
• China’s PMIs indicate increased economic confidence and stability
• The Fund’s USD I Class fell 5.80% in Novemberbut remains up 0.92% YTD

A tumultuous month saw Donald Trump's unexpected win push befuddled financial asset markets to extremes. Hypersensitive markets saw the dollar’s 3.1% (DXY Index) gain pretty much wipe out most emerging market currencies over the month; after the US presidential election result was announced. The only emerging market currencies to have actually remained resilient against the dollar’s onslaught were the Taiwanese dollar, Russian rouble and the Chinese renminbi. The Turkish lira took the hardest beating, falling over 9%. Comparatively the rate was down 1.65% over the month, and has continued to strengthen against its anchor, the CFETS basket of currencies.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - October 2016

• China’s economic data releases surprise on the upside
• “Hard Brexit” concerns dominated markets through October
• Possible Fed hike in December coupled with ECB QE tightening concerns and revised inflation expectations saw global financial assets sell-off
• Renminbi added to IMF SDR basket; PBoC continue to maintain currency stability against CFETS basket

China’s data releases for September surprised on the upside; retail sales and industrial production were in-line with expectations and CPI beat the market consensus at 1.9%yoy with PPI bouncing into positive territory. The Q3’16 GDP reading matched market expectations at an annualised 6.7%yoy, unchanged from the previous quarter and on track to meet the government’s 6.5-7% target. The services sector once again expanded at a faster rate than the rest of the economy, contributing over 50% to growth. The Purchasing Managers releases for October remained supportive with the official manufacturing print bouncing to a 26 month high and in-line with the private Caixin reading, at 51.2. New orders, employment and raw materials all increased; this has seen some market makers bearish on China rethinking their forecasts and strategies. The non-manufacturing reading also surprised at 51.2, bouncing 1.1 points.

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RBF UCITS Monthly - September 2016

•The Fed held rates leaving door open for a December hike
• BoJ moved to steepen the JGB curve
• OPEC production cut “agreement”; oil rallied
• Russian quasi-sovereign bonds outperform
• Global growth momentum is slowing; could be time to deploy fiscal tools

September witnessed a rollercoaster month as asset markets were once again on tenterhooks, awaiting central bank monetary policy announcements; particularly from the BoJ and Fed. As we had expected the BoJ moved to steepen the JGB curve, by launching 'QQE with Yield Curve Control', or Quantitative and Qualitative Monetary Easing with 10-year yield cap at 0%, and the Fed maintained the status quo; leaving a hike in December on the table. The futures market appeared confused with all the mixed FOMC member rhetoric throughout the month, finally ending the month pricing in a 59.3% chance of a hike in December. The Fed’s median forward guidance was revised down to two rate rises, from three, in 2017.

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