Central bankers think tapering of debt buying will begin later this year

Jackson Hole: Income inequality also seen as major issue

Central bankers from around the world will convene this week in Jackson Hole, Wyoming to discuss monetary policy as the global economy enters the 21st month of the coronavirus pandemic.

What will central bankers say at this year’s Jackson Hole summit?

Central bankers from around the world will convene this week in Jackson Hole, Wyoming to discuss monetary policy as the global economy enters the 21st month of the coronavirus pandemic.

Of particular interest to market participants will be Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell’s speech and any clues he may offer about when the central bank may begin tapering its monthly purchases of $120 billion (€102 billion ) of government debt.

Minutes from the Fed’s July meeting showed disagreement among officials, though a majority believe the taper could begin later this year.

“Jackson Hole becomes more important now with indecision from the Fed as to when they will taper,” said Andrew Brenner, head of international fixed income at NatAlliance Securities.


Other strategists say taper talk will not be the only focus. HSBC’s Steven Major argues that a discussion of income inequality could also potentially have an effect on bond yields.

Economic inequality “is one of the longer-run structural drivers that has contributed to rates being so low”, he wrote in a note last week.

At last year’s meeting Powell revealed the bank’s then-new inflation policy under which it would aim to average 2 per cent inflation, therefore allowing prices to rise for a period of time.

Is the euro zone summer growth spurt continuing?

Euro zone businesses recorded their fastest expansion in more than two decades last month. Purchasing manager surveys this week will offer investors the first clue as to whether they repeated the trick in August, despite the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant and signs of slowing growth from the US and China.

The closely watched gauges of manufacturing and services activity are expected to dip very slightly to 62.4 and 59.7 respectively, according to economists’ forecasts compiled by Refinitiv.

Some of that strength reflects the fact that the euro area has rebounded more slowly from the pandemic than other major economies, and still has room to catch up. "We've seen high growth but from an exceptionally low base," said George Buckley, chief euro area economist at Nomura.

The surveys also include a balance of input and output prices which could show to what extent supply chain issues continue to hold back production in the manufacturing sector and drive up inflation, according to Buckley.

The euro fell to a nine-month low of $1.166 against the dollar last week, in part on the prospect of higher US interest rates at a time when the European Central Bank is expected to hold rates at record lows for years to come.

Analysts say the expectation of relatively robust growth as the euro zone plays catch-up with other economies has prevented a sharper fall for the common currency, so any signs of weakness or fading of inflationary pressures could see it decline further.

Is the UK’s economic recovery stumbling?

Those seeking to find out whether the UK’s economic recovery is faltering will have their eyes on next week’s composite purchasing managers’ index, a key gauge of manufacturing and services activity.

Britain has suffered from the twin impact of the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant and the “pingdemic”, as scores of workers were made to self-isolate after being alerted by the UK’s test and trace system.

The IHS Markit/CIPS flash composite PMI dropped for the third month in a row, sinking to 55.3 from 59.2 in July, its lowest since February.

Even so, it remains well above its 23-year average of 53.7. This is one of the UK’s economy’s more upbeat indicators, and it is heavily influenced by sentiment, so its trajectory is often more important than its level.

Like overseas counterparts, UK companies are facing disruption to their supply chains owing to the lingering effects of the pandemic.

“These issues are showing little sign of abating given the recent flare-up of Covid in China and other key manufacturing regions of Asia,” said James Smith, developed markets economist at ING bank. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021