Top 5 Things to Watch in Markets in the Week Ahead.

Against a background of a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic the main U.S. economic data in the coming week will be the reports on consumer and producer price inflation. Investors are watching closely for clues on how soon the Federal Reserve may start scaling back stimulus. There are also several Fed officials slated to speak during the coming week and their comments could help clarify the Fed’s position on tapering. Earnings will continue but will be fewer in number as earnings season winds down. Meanwhile, Bitcoin is hovering near two-month highs and the UK is to release data on second quarter growth. Here’s what you need to know to start your week.

  1. Inflation numbers

The U.S. consumer price index and the producer price index released Wednesday and Thursday, respectively will provide an insight into the current pace of inflation, one of the key factors along with the labor market, that the Fed looks at when making its monetary policy decisions.

CPI is expected to moderate slightly after last month’s jump of 0.9%, the strongest gain since June 2008. The Fed has said the current surge in inflation is just temporary, but market sentiment has been hit by fears of higher inflation resulting in a sudden tapering.

Friday’s stronger-than-expected nonfarm payrolls report was the last before the Fed gathers for its annual meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, at the end of the month to discuss policy and decide future stimulus strategy.

The upbeat jobs numbers coupled with uncomfortably hot inflation data could prompt Fed officials to announce plans to begin tapering bond purchases as soon as September, the first step down the road to eventual interest rate hikes.

  1. Fedspeak

Several Fed officials are due to make appearances in the coming week including Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic and Richmond Fed head Thomas Barkin on Monday, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans on Tuesday and Kansas City Fed President Esther George on Wednesday.

Bostic and Barkin are known to lean towards tapering so their comments will be closely watched.

The bar the Fed set for scaling back its bond-buying program – “substantial further progress” toward the Fed’s 2% inflation and full employment goals – has never been precisely defined.

In June officials began debating how soon the central bank can begin to ease back on its emergency supports for the economy even amid the emergence of the Delta variant of the coronavirus that threatens to dent growth.

  1. Earnings wind down

Earnings will continue in the coming week, but the number of companies reporting will tail off as earnings season continues to wind down.

Some of the names reporting include AMC Entertainment (NYSE:AMC), Softbank (T:9984), Coinbase Global Inc (NASDAQ:COIN), Sysco (NYSE:SYY), Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK), eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), Wendy’s (NASDAQ:WEN), Lordstown Motors (NASDAQ:RIDE), Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Airbnb (NASDAQ:ABNB).

It has been a stellar earnings season – out of the 427 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings so far, 87.6% beat analyst expectations, the highest on record according to Reuters data.

  1. Bitcoin higher as sentiment recovers

Bitcoin rose to its highest level in two months on Sunday as market sentiment recovered but remined fragile. The digital currency hit $45,284, its highest since mid-June.

“A mood of optimism appears to have returned to cryptocurrency markets,” Paolo Ardoino, chief technology officer at Bitfinex, said in comments to Bloomberg on Friday. “Bitcoin is leading the charge while Ethereum continues to make gains” after its network upgrade. Still, he said, “the turbulence that we’ve seen in crypto markets over recent weeks is unlikely to subside.”

One area of uncertainty for crypto investors is the U.S. infrastructure bill currently making its way through Congress, which contains a cryptocurrency tax provision, tacked on at the last minute.

  1. UK GDP

The UK is to release figures on June GDP growth on Thursday. The June numbers will add to data already released, giving a full picture of how the economy performed in the second quarter. With restrictions easing economists expect the economy to have rebounded around 5% after a contraction at the start of the year.

Also Thursday the euro zone is to publish figures on industrial production for June which economists expect to remain sluggish, weighed down by supply chain issues.

-Reuters contributed to this report

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