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Inflation angst and soaring energy prices form the backdrop to the start of third-quarter U.S. earnings season in the coming week.

Annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) kick off too from Monday, but the event is overshadowed by a data-rigging scandal that threatens the career of IMF boss Kristalina Georgieva.

Here are the five stories likely to dominate markets in the coming week:

EARNINGS, NON-STOP

The BlackRock logo is seen outside of its offices in New York City on Oct. 17, 2016.Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Some of the world’s biggest banks kick off U.S. earnings, just as investors fret over inflation, surging energy prices and the upcoming tapering of the Federal Reserve’s US$120-billion monthly stimulus.

Banks smashed profit estimates in the second quarter as the economy rebounded, with Wells Fargo, Bank of America Corp., Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase posting a combined US$33-billion in profits.

That momentum likely slowed in the third quarter; earnings for financials are forecast to grow by 17.4 per cent, versus nearly 160 per cent in Q2, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Wider S&P 500 index earnings are expected to grow by 29.4 per cent, putting them on track to outpace those of the financial sector for the first time in five quarters. BlackRock and JPMorgan report Wednesday; Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs later in the week.

CHINA CHECK-UP

This file photo taken on Sept. 28 shows workers assembling vehicles at a factory in Qingzhou, China.STR/AFP/Getty Images

As stagflation fears simmer globally, China’s economy gets a crucial health check, with data spanning bank lending to trade and inflation.

Thursday’s factory gate prices for September are in focus after surging to 13-year peaks in August on soaring raw material costs. Those costs have only gone up since, including ever-higher coal prices. The gnment is rationing power to heavy industry, causing factory output to contract.

The crisis is fanning worries about a slowdown, given contagion risks from Evergrande’s debt woes and Beijing’s crackdown on tech firms.

While the impact is being felt as far as Wall Street, China’s neighbours and biggest trading partners may bear the brunt.

OLD INSTITUTIONS, NEW SCANDALS

A man walks past a poster announcing the upcoming annual meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund outside of the IMF headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 7.MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

The great and good of central banking, finance and politics come together at the annual World Bank and IMF meetings from Monday.

There’s plenty to chew over: The global lender will unveil its new economic projections, plans to redistribute US$650-billion of SDRs – the IMF’s own currency – to help poorer nations, while Ireland has dropped its opposition to overhauling global tax rules.

But the elephant in the room is the future of Ms. Georgieva, the IMF chief, after claims she pressured World Bank staff to alter data to favour China, while in her previous role.

The allegations – firmly rejected by Ms. Georgieva – will cast a cloud over the fund’s initiatives to aid the world’s postpandemic recovery.

U.K. DATA BONANZA

Workers emerge from Bank underground station with the Bank of England and Royal Exchange building seen in London's financial district on Jan. 25, 2018.Toby Melville/Reuters

As Britain’s economy shows signs of slowing amid rising prices, supply chain disruptions and staff shortages, upcoming data releases will grab attention.

On Tuesday, the September unemployment count is published, with August unemployment rates and wage data. August gross domestic product data is released on Wednesday, alongside industrial and manufacturing numbers.

Markets are betting the Bank of England will join its peers and raise interest rates in February. But while British gilt yields have surged, the expectations have done nothing to lift sterling.

DANCING ON THE CEILING

The Federal Reserve building in Washington on May 1, 2020.Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Funds rebalancing portfolios and U.S. banks rushing to meet cash reserve rules tend to lift the dollar toward the end of each year. This year there are even more sources of support.

First, the Fed looks set to taper stimulus. “Real” U.S. yields – adjusted for inflation – are deeply negative, but at -0.9 per cent, compare favourably to Germany’s -1.9 per cent. With the ECB in no rush to tighten policy, the gap could widen.

Second, as economic growth moderates, stocks have fallen and boosted demand for safer assets including the dollar. The rally in commodities, traded mainly in dollars, is another inducement to buy the greenback.

Unsurprisingly, the premium to access greenbacks is rising; euro-dollar three-month swap spreads are around 16 basis points, more than double end-September levels.

Headwinds? Markets could “sell the fact” once tapering happens. Another risk is the debt ceiling deadline, kicked out to Dec. 3, a default while unlikely, could prove catastrophic. But even then, the dollar could catch a bid, as it did in 2008.

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