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In this June 13, 2018, photo, Mike Gomez uses tools to assemble an engine at Caterpillar's engine manufacturing plant in Seguin, Texas.Josie Norris/The Associated Press

This coming Friday’s U.S. employment report will allow investors to gauge whether a powerful U.S. recovery could push the Federal Reserve to start unwinding ultraeasy monetary policies sooner than expected.

An unexpectedly hawkish Fed shifting its first postpandemic rate hike into 2023 took markets by surprise, briefly denting stocks – before they returned to record highs because of soothing words from chief Jerome Powell.

Inflation alone won’t be enough to drive rate hikes, he reassured markets. Adding perky jobs data to the mix could change that picture, markets fear. Analysts expect the economy to add 600,000 jobs in June – the largest monthly gain in three months – up from a gain of 559,000 jobs in May.


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The headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt, Germany, March 12, 2016.Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Major central banks claim to be looking past short-term inflation rises, but a pick up in price pressures is testing their resolve. The U.S. Fed has shifted to a hawkish bias. Now, it’s the European Central Bank’s turn with Wednesday’s June flash inflation release.

Euro zone inflation zipped above its near-2-per-cent target in May and ECB chief economist Philip Lane is confident there is no new paradigm – wage growth after all remains weak.

Hold on, others say, pointing out manufacturing input prices rose to the highest in nearly 2½ decades in June, meaning it’s beginning to feel like the 1970s, when the inflation beast last stirred. The great debate continues.


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The sun is seen behind a crude oil pump jack in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas on Nov. 22, 2019.Angus Mordant/Reuters

Investors might be sad to see the first half end after what has been a very happy six months for many major asset classes.

Oil’s 45-per-cent leap is its best first half in 12 years, world stocks are on course for their second best H1 of the century so far, and although the FAANGs have been subdued by their stellar standards, industrial metals are red hot and staples such as corn and soybeans are up nearly 40 per cent.

The second half looks harder to call. More virulent COVID variants keep pandemic experts nervy, China’s powerhouse economy looks to be slowing, and the commodity and food price surge is driving up inflation. That makes it harder for major economies to justify more stimulus, while a number of emerging markets are hiking rates as a precaution.


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An employee approaches a dump truck at Gross flagship mine of Nordgold in Russia, in this undated handout photo.Nordgold/Reuters

IPO markets never had it so good – or have they? Record issuance from the United States, Europe and Asia would suggest the money central banks pour into economies is put to good use supporting entrants to world stock markets.

But cracks are appearing. Some mid-cap deals pulled stock market debuts recently: Marex Spectron in London, PHE Holdings in Paris and Primafrio in Madrid. Bankers blame investor “indigestion” – a buyside becoming picky with so many deals already priced.

But Nordgold aborting its debut might be the first casualty of expected central bank tightening as the hawkish Fed pushed gold 6 per cent lower. With Wise embarking on its road show and a huge pipeline of IPO candidates lining up for September, the question is if there will be more.


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An investor looks at screens showing stock market movements at a securities company in Nanjing in China's eastern Jiangsu province on July 6, 2020.STR/AFP/Getty Images

The chorus of China bulls has quietened down a bit if the thicket of outlook slideshows so far is any guide.

Investment houses are coalescing around a full-year forecast for roughly 8-per-cent growth. That is huge, but for a few it represents a downward revision for the second half made in response to disappointing data and some gathering headwinds.

Tightening credit conditions and stubbornly sluggish retail sales are a handbrake on domestic consumption. Demand for exported goods is also flagging as the world reopens.

Industrial profit data on Sunday will be the next guide on the economy, while investors keep one eye on the yuan, which looks set to have one of its worst months since mid-2019, recoiling from a long rally that took it to a three-year high.

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