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LOOKING TO CHINA

An employee works on the production line of a tire factory under Tianjin Wanda Tyre Group in Xingtai, China.

Jason Lee/Reuters

China’s third-quarter growth data comes out on Monday and should show the effects of the pandemic receding. The world’s second-largest economy is expected to have grown 5.2% in July-September from a year earlier, faster than the second quarter’s 3.2%, according to a Reuters poll.

The yuan is priced for it and the global recovery practically depends on it, as Chinese demand and production keep the world economy ticking over. A robust reading will support policymakers' prudence, with Tuesday likely to usher in a sixth straight month with China’s benchmark interest rate on hold. A rebound is also expected in retail spending, one soft spot. That could herald better spending globally when the virus ebbs.

MESSY DIVORCE

The English flag flies above a souvenir stand opposite Britain's Parliament in London, Friday, Oct. 16.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/The Associated Press

Britain’s messy divorce with the European Union is likely to remain in the spotlight, keeping the pound jittery in response to comments from both sides about whether or not a trade deal is likely before a final Dec. 31 deadline.

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EU leaders agreed at their Oct. 15-16 summit to more talks but are ready for no deal. The three main areas of contention are fair competition, dispute resolution and fisheries.

The pound could gain from signs the UK will not quit the talks. But the prospect of negotiations dragging on, undermining the economic outlook just as the coronavirus cases rise again, could weigh on sterling.

BEACON OF HOPE

Pedestrians pass the London Stock Exchange.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Just as tighter European restrictions to contain COVID-19 fuel concern about economic activity, the third-quarter earnings season about to start in earnest may prove a beacon of hope.

According to Refinitiv I/B/E/S data, analysts are increasingly upbeat on earnings from companies listed on the pan-European STOXX 600 index.

The expected decline, which peaked at more than 50% during spring when a large part of Europe was under strict lockdown, has softened to an average drop of 36.7% year-on-year, down from a 40% decline forecast a month ago.

There’s talk that analyst estimates may be too conservative. The STOXX 600 is currently trading just below the mid-point of the 10-percentage-point range it has held since June. A positive third quarter could push stocks higher.

ENERGY AND ELECTIONS

President Donald Trump sits during a break in an NBC News Town Hall, at Perez Art Museum Miami, Thursday, Oct. 15.

Evan Vucci/The Associated Press

Next week also brings energy-sector earnings. Haliburton reports on Monday, Baker Hughes and Kinder Morgan on Wednesday.

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Uneven global growth and ample supply have pressured energy prices during U.S. President Donald Trump’s term, with U.S. crude prices down around 20% since Trump’s January 2017 inauguration. Energy is the only major sector in the S&P to be in the red since then.

A November election win for Democratic challenger Joe Biden could bring more unease about greater regulation and an emphasis on green policies.

So, stay away from energy stocks? Perhaps not -- Goldman Sachs does not expect the U.S. election to change its bullish outlook and reckons an overwhelming Democratic victory could be a positive catalyst for the sector.

DÉJÀ VU?

Bank notes of different currencies, including Euro, U.S. Dollar, Turkish Lira or Brazilian Reais, are photographed in Frankfurt, Germany.

Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

The tone in markets suddenly appears to have echoes of March, when the coronavirus outbreak in Europe sparked a dash into safe-haven bonds and cash.

Increased restrictions to contain a second wave, including in capitals such as London and Paris, are fuelling unease. Safe-haven German 10-year bond yields have tumbled 10 bps to levels last seen in March; and alongside U.S. and UK yields are set for the biggest weekly drop in months.

Investors are now watching for signs of economic damage -- the October flash purchasing manager index numbers for the euro zone are due out Friday.

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Not all bond markets will benefit from the jitters. Italian bond yields, which just a few days ago hit record lows on expectations of more central bank stimulus, have been hurt as investors ditch riskier assets. That’s what happened in March. Déjà vu, anyone?

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