Welcome to your weekly macroeconomic round-up, where we spotlight a few of the most significant events in the last week.
Rising gas prices fuel growing concerns over inflation in Europe and the UK
UK and European gas prices rose sharply on Wednesday, but settled down during afternoon trading after comments from Vladimir Putin suggested that state-backed Russian firm Gazprom might increase supplies to avoid a “speculative craze”.
A confluence of factors, including an increase in Chinese demand, lower wind energy production in recent months, and inventory levels well below the 5-year average, has resulted in growing concerns that natural gas supplies could be depleted in the UK and Europe this winter. In turn, this is driving concerns that energy inflation will be materially higher over the winter months, potentially leading to the need for tighter monetary policy by the ECB and the BoE. The burden now falls on governments to cushion the blow of higher prices on consumers, with some nations already pursuing subsidy strategies, such as Spain.
US Senate votes to raise debt ceiling until December, providing short term relief to investors
The upper chamber of Congress voted along party lines last week to extend the public borrowing limit by $480bn and avoid default for the next two months. The Senate vote was only made possible by an earlier vote which saw 11 Republicans break party ranks and join the 50 Democrat officials in voting to remove the possibility of a filibuster. Earlier in the week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the government would run out of money by 18 October if no deal was agreed.
The debate over raising the debt ceiling will now continue until the vote in early December as Republicans attempt to tie President Biden’s ambitious fiscal spending packages to some agreement on debt.
US adds 194,000 jobs in September, well below expectations
Nonfarm payrolls data in the US showed that the economy added 194,000 jobs in September, well below the 500,000 expected by economists. The August figure was revised up from 235,000 to 360,000. This brings the overall unemployment rate down to 4.8% from 5.2% a month earlier.
The data has implications for the Federal Reserve which has ‘maximum sustainable employment’ as part of its dual mandate. Despite the weaker than expected report, investors still expect that the Federal Reserve will begin to ‘taper’ the $120bn-a-month bond purchase programme from November. The yield on US 10-year Treasuries was unchanged on the news, at 1.6%.
Global equity markets stabilised last week following the sell-off that started in early September. Regionally, China equities were best performing, despite remaining in negative territory for the year to date, while Japanese equities continued their recent weakness following the disappointing appointment of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Elsewhere, the short-term resolution on the US debt ceiling led to a small relief rally in US stock markets.
The Brent Crude Oil price rose to above $80 for the first time since mid-2018 last week as investors responded to the OPEC+ decision last week and the rising Natural Gas price. Oil can be used as a substitute for natural gas in some cases.
Look out for next week’s update, where we’ll be focusing on US inflation and minutes from the FOMC meeting.
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