a recent essay.

Global forces could exacerbate those trends. The past year’s supply chain issues could inspire companies to produce more domestically — reversing years of globalization and chipping away at a force that had been holding down wage and price growth for decades. The transition to greener energy sources could bolster investment, pushing up interest rates and at least temporarily lifting costs.

“The long era of low inflation, suppressed volatility and easy financial conditions is ending,” Mark Carney, a former head of the Bank of England, said of the global economy in a speech on Tuesday. “It is being replaced by more challenging macro dynamics in which supply shocks are as important as demand shocks.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has the potential to rework global trade relationships for years to come, could leave a more lasting mark on the economy than the pandemic did, Mr. Carney said.

“The pandemic marks a pivot,” he told reporters. “The bigger story is actually the war. That is crystallizing — reinforcing — a process of de-globalization that had begun.”

Mr. Summers said the current period of high inflation and repeated shocks to supply marked “a period rather than an era.” It is too soon to say if the world has fundamentally changed. Over the longer term, he puts the chances that the economy will settle back into its old regime at about 50-50.

“I don’t see how anyone can be confident that secular stagnation is durably over,” he said. On the other hand, “it is quite plausible that we would have more demand than we used to.”

That demand would be fueled by government military spending, spending on climate-related initiatives and spending driven by populist pressures, he said.

In any case, it could take years to know what the economy of the future will look like.

What is clear at this point? The pandemic, and now geopolitical upheaval, have taken the economy and shaken it up like a snow globe. The flakes will eventually fall — there will be a new equilibrium — but things may be arranged differently when everything settles.

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Federal Reserve Not Likely to Change Course After Ukraine Invasion

Federal Reserve officials are turning a wary eye to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, though several have signaled in recent days that geopolitical tensions are unlikely to keep them from pulling back their support for the U.S. economy at a time when the job market is booming and prices are climbing rapidly.

Stock indexes are swooning and the price of key commodities — including oil and gas — have risen sharply and could continue to rise as Russia, a major producer, responds to American and European sanctions.

That makes the invasion a complicated risk for the Fed: On one hand, its fallout is likely to further push up price inflation, which is already running at its fastest pace in 40 years. On the other, it could weigh on growth if stock prices continue to plummet and nervous consumers in Europe and the United States pull back from spending.

The magnitude of the potential economic hit is far from certain, and for now, central bank officials have signaled that they will remain on track to raise interest rates from near-zero in a series of increases starting next month, a policy path that will make borrowing money more expensive and cool down the economy.

invasion could disrupt the post-Cold War world order and warned that the jump in energy prices and fallout from sanctions “will complicate the ability of central banks on both sides of the Atlantic to engineer a soft landing from the pandemic inflation surge.”

Economists have been warning that a “soft landing” — in which central banks guide the economy onto a sustainable path without causing a recession — might be difficult to achieve at a time when prices have taken off and monetary policies across much of Europe and North America may need to readjust substantially.

“The shock of war adds to the enormous challenges facing central banks worldwide,” Isabel Schnabel, an executive board member at the European Central Bank, said during a Bank of England event on Thursday. She added that policymakers are monitoring the situation in Ukraine “very closely.”

Inflation is high around much of the world, and though it is slightly less pronounced in Europe, and E.C.B. policymakers are reacting more slowly to it than some of their global counterparts, recent high readings there have prompted some officials to edge toward policy changes.

dizzying spikes in prices for energy and food and could spook investors. The economic damage from supply disruptions and economic sanctions would be severe in some countries and industries and unnoticed in others.

“The current situation is different from past episodes when geopolitical events led the Fed to delay tightening or ease because inflation risk has created a stronger and more urgent reason for the Fed to tighten today,” researchers at Goldman Sachs wrote in an analysis note.

Plus, with wages rising and consumers increasingly expecting high inflation in the coming years, the fact that the conflict has the potential to further elevate prices could strike the central bank as problematic.

“Further increases in commodity prices might be more worrisome than usual,” they wrote.

Some economists warned that the Russian invasion in some ways echoed the inflationary episode of the 1970s: Back then, price increases were already rapid, and a sharp oil price increase pushed inflation up further and made it stick around. The Arab oil embargo of 1973-74 and the Iranian revolution of 1979 both contributed to an oil supply shortage.

“There is something eerily reminiscent of the 1970s and the surge in energy prices associated with Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine,” Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, wrote on Twitter Thursday. “It couldn’t happen at a worse time as it is pouring fuel over an already kindled fire of inflation.”

Economists have released varying estimates of how much an oil price shock could bolster inflation in the coming months.

If oil increases to $120 per barrel by the end of February, past the $95 mark it hovered around last week, inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index could climb close to 9 percent in the next couple of months, instead of a projected peak of a little below 8 percent, said Alan Detmeister, an economist at UBS who formerly led the prices and wages section at the Fed.

The Goldman researchers said that as a rule of thumb, a $10 per barrel increase in the price of oil would increase headline inflation in the United States by about a fifth of a percentage point, and lowers gross domestic product growth by just under 0.1 percentage point.

“The growth hit could be somewhat larger if geopolitical risk tightens financial conditions materially and increases uncertainty for businesses,” they wrote.

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Inflation and Deficits Don’t Dim the Appeal of U.S. Bonds

Mr. Bernstein stipulated that while debt financing has its place, the White House also believes it has firm limits within its agenda. “The outcome of all this is going to be some mix of progressively raised revenues and investments in essential public goods with a high return financed by some borrowing.”

What would have to happen for these rock-bottom borrowing costs to rise significantly? There could be a crisis of confidence in Fed policy, a geopolitical crisis or steep increases in the Fed’s key interest rates in an attempt to kill off inflation. In a more easily imagined situation, some believe that if inflation remains near its current levels into the second half of the year, bond buyers may lose patience and reduce purchases until yields are more in tune with rising prices.

The resulting higher interest payments on debt would force budget cuts, said Marc Goldwein, the senior policy director at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Mr. Goldwein’s organization, which pushes for balanced budgets, estimated that even under this past year’s low rates, the federal government would spend over $300 billion on interest payments — more than its individual outlays on food stamps, housing, disability insurance, science, education or technology.

Last month, Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the right-leaning Manhattan Institute, published a paper titled “How Higher Interest Rates Could Push Washington Toward a Federal Debt Crisis.” It concludes that “debt is already projected to grow to unsustainable levels even before any new proposals are enacted.”

The offsetting global and demographic trends that have been pushing rates down, Mr. Reidl writes, are an “accidental, and possibly temporary, subsidy to heavy-borrowing federal lawmakers.” Assuming that those trends will endure, he said, would be like becoming a self-satisfied football team that “managed to improve its overall win-loss record over several seasons — despite a rapidly worsening defense — because its offense kept improving enough to barely outscore its opponents.”

But at least one historical trend suggests that rates will remain tame: an overall decline in real interest rates worldwide dating back six centuries.

A paper published in 2020 by the Bank of England and written by Paul Schmelzing, a postdoctoral research associate at the Yale School of Management, found that as political and financial systems have globalized, innovated and matured, defaults among the safest borrowers — strong governments — have continuously declined. According to his paper, one ramification may be that “irrespective of particular monetary and fiscal responses, real rates could soon enter permanently negative territory,” yielding less than the rate of inflation.

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London is top global finance centre but lags in key areas, says study

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St Paul’s Cathedral and areas of the financial district of the City of London are seen at dusk October 9, 2008. REUTERS/Toby Melville

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LONDON, Jan 27 (Reuters) – London remains the top global financial centre, according to a study from its own financial district, but is outgunned by New York and Singapore in access to talent, while Paris is adding competition from the European Union.

The study from the City of London Corporation selected seven centres that feature in other research on financial hubs, such as Z/Yen, which consistently puts New York in the top spot and London second.

The study, which added Paris this year, looked at five areas like digital skills, regulation and talent. While London remains top overall from last year, New York is only slightly behind and closing the gap, followed by Singapore, Frankfurt, Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

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City of London Graphic

New York remains by far the biggest financial centre, while London lags Singapore in resilient business infrastructure, access to talent and skills, and a friendly regulatory and legal environment.

“UK policymakers need to guarantee that its businesses continue to enjoy unrivalled access to the best of global talent,” the study said.

“Withdrawal from the EU, the end of freedom of movement and the introduction of a new immigration system have damaged perceptions of the UK as an attractive business environment for international talent in recent years.”

Total tax for UK-based financial services firms, in particular banks, is also relatively high, it said. The finance ministry is reviewing some of the taxes.

Britain’s finance ministry has proposed that the Bank of England has a formal remit to “facilitate” London’s competitiveness.

A year since Britain left the EU’s orbit, leaving the financial sector largely cut off from the bloc, there are no signs of a “Brexit dividend” in looser regulation, though listing rules have been eased to help London catch up with New York in IPOs.

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Reporting by Huw Jones;
Editing by Bernadette Baum

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Why Critics Fear the Fed’s Policy Shift May Prove Late and Abrupt

That caused the Fed to change course late last year — and to do so fairly abruptly.

“Inflation really popped up in the late spring last year, and we had a view — it was very, very widely held in the forecasting community — that this would be temporary,” Mr. Powell said in December. But officials grew more concerned as employment cost data moved higher and inflation indicators showed hot readings, he said, so they pivoted on policy.

“It was essentially higher inflation and faster, turns out much faster, progress in the labor market,” Mr. Powell said.

Asset prices have been jerking around in recent weeks as investors try to make sense of the Fed’s new stance and what it will mean for the economy. Stocks have generally slumped, Bitcoin prices have fallen, and bond prices have been increasing as part of the cacophony.

Had the Fed changed course earlier, “there wouldn’t be this sense that the Fed is behind the curve, and this fear in the market that they are going to go aggressively,” Ms. Markowska at Jefferies said.

Part of the challenge is that while the central bank had clearly detailed a plan for when it would slow bond-buying and lift rates — emphasizing what conditions it would want to see — it has not been as clear about its follow-up moves.

Mr. El-Erian thinks that the Fed should promptly stop buying bonds while clearly signaling the path ahead for rate increases. Otherwise, he said, officials risk having to pull back support all at once later this year.

But there are also arguments for gradualism.

Foreign economic officials are nervously eyeing the Fed’s path, especially when other central banks are also pulling back support amid a widespread burst in prices — the Bank of England, for instance, has already raised interest rates. When big economies raise domestic borrowing costs, it can cause capital to flow away from emerging markets, roiling exchange rates and damaging or destabilizing their economic growth.

“If major economies slam on the brakes or take a U-turn in their monetary policies, there would be serious negative spillovers,” President Xi Jinping of China said during a speech this month, warning of “challenges to global economic and financial stability.”

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Workers in Europe Are Demanding Higher Pay as Inflation Soars

PARIS — The European Central Bank’s top task is to keep inflation at bay. But as the cost of everything from gas to food has soared to record highs, the bank’s employees are joining workers across Europe in demanding something rarely seen in recent years: a hefty wage increase.

“It seems like a paradox, but the E.C.B. isn’t protecting its own staff against inflation,” said Carlos Bowles, an economist at the central bank and vice president of IPSO, an employee trade union. Workers are pressing for a raise of at least 5 percent to keep up with a historic inflationary surge set off by the end of pandemic lockdowns. The bank says it won’t budge from a planned a 1.3 percent increase.

That simply won’t offset inflation’s pain, said Mr. Bowles, whose union represents 20 percent of the bank’s employees. “Workers shouldn’t have to take a hit when prices rise so much,” he said.

Inflation, relatively quiet for nearly a decade in Europe, has suddenly flared in labor contract talks as a run-up in prices that started in spring courses through the economy and everyday life.

reached 4.90 percent, a record high for the eurozone.

Austrian metalworkers wrested a 3.6 percent pay raise for 2022. Irish employers said they expect to have to lift wages by at least 3 percent next year. Workers at Tesco supermarkets in Britain won a 5.5 percent raise after threatening to strike around Christmas. And in Germany, where the European Central Bank has its headquarters, the new government raised the minimum wage by a whopping 25 percent, to 12 euros (about $13.60) an hour.

fell for the first time in 10 years in the second quarter from the same period a year earlier, although economists say pandemic shutdowns and job furloughs make it hard to paint an accurate picture. In the decade before the pandemic, when inflation was low, wages in the euro area grew by an average of 1.9 percent a year, according to Eurostat.

The increases are likely to be debated this week at meetings of the European Central Bank and the Bank of England. E.C.B. policymakers have insisted for months that the spike in inflation is temporary, touched off by the reopening of the global economy, labor shortages in some industries and supply-chain bottlenecks that can’t last forever. Energy prices, which jumped in November a staggering 27.4 percent from a year ago, are also expected to cool.

interview in November with the German daily F.A.Z., adding that it was likely to start fading as soon as January.

In the United States, where the government on Friday reported that inflation jumped 6.8 percent in the year through November, the fastest pace in nearly 40 years, officials are not so sure. In congressional testimony last week, the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, stopped using the word “transitory” to describe how long high inflation would last. The Omicron variant of the coronavirus could worsen supply bottlenecks and push up inflation, he said.

In Europe, unions are also agitated after numerous companies reported bumper profits and dividends despite the pandemic. Companies listed on France’s CAC 40 stock index saw margins jump by an average of 35 percent in the first quarter of 2021, and half reported profits around 40 percent higher than the same period a year earlier.

raised in October by 2.2 percent.

Crucially, executives also agreed to return to the bargaining table in April if a continued upward climb in prices hurts employees.

At Sephora, the luxury cosmetics chain owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, some unions are seeking an approximately 10 percent pay increase of €180 a month to make up for what they say is stagnant or low pay for employees in France, many of whom earn minimum wage or a couple hundred euros a month more.

€44.2 billion in the first nine months of 2021, up 11 percent from 2019, raised wages at Sephora by 0.5 percent this year and granted occasional work bonuses, said Jenny Urbina, a representative of the Confédération Générale du Travail, the union negotiating with the company.

Sephora has offered a €30 monthly increase for minimum wage workers, and was not replacing many people who quit, straining the remaining employees, she said.

“When we work for a wealthy group like LVMH no one should be earning so little,” said Ms. Urbina, who said she was hired at the minimum wage 18 years ago and now earns €1,819 a month before taxes. “Employees can’t live off of one-time bonuses,” she added. “We want a salary increase to make up for low pay.”

Sephora said in a statement that workers demanding higher wages were in a minority, and that “the question of the purchasing power of our employees has always been at the heart” of the company’s concerns.

At the European Central Bank, employees’ own worries about purchasing power have lingered despite the bank’s forecast that inflation will fade away.

A spokeswoman for the central bank said the 1.3 percent wage increase planned for 2022 is a calculation based on salaries paid at national central banks, and would not change.

But with inflation in Germany at 6 percent, the Frankfurt-based bank’s workers will take a big hit, Mr. Bowles said.

“It’s not in the mentality of E.C.B. staff to go on strike,” he said. “But even if you have a good salary, you don’t want to see it cut by 4 percent.”

Léontine Gallois contributed reporting from Paris.

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Wall Street tumbles, with tech leading the way. Bitcoin’s drop takes crypto stocks with it.

Tesla was one of the worst-performing stocks in the market on Wednesday, tumbling more than 4 percent. The company had once positioned itself as a prominent supporter of cryptocurrencies, and in March, it announced that it would accept Bitcoin in exchange for cars, helping to set off a surge in the asset.

Last week, Elon Musk, the company’s chief executive, reversed that decision, citing concerns about the energy consumption needed to produce cryptocurrencies. That process, known as mining, involves a using computers to create new Bitcoin by having them solve complex computational problems.

The hard drive maker Seagate Technology — which has a stake in cryptocurrency company Ripple, the creator of the XRP currency — tumbled more than 2 percent. Shares of Seagate and Western Digital, another maker of hard drives, had been on a tear in recent days, as analysts spotlighted surging demand for its computer products, in part, from cryptocurrency miners. Western Digital was down nearly 3 percent.

Bitcoin wasn’t the only element moving the markets. Crude oil tumbled roughly 4 percent, on lingering concerns that the still-spreading coronavirus in India, as well as Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan, could prompt new restrictions that could curtail economic activity.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index was 1.5 percent lower, while the FTSE 100 in Britain was down 1.3 percent. Stock markets in Asia ended the day mainly lower, with the Nikkei in Japan down by 1.3 percent.

Volatility in the stock markets lately has been driven by sentiment about inflation. Investors are nervous that a jump in prices —  coming as global economies reopen and as the government continues to pump stimulus funds to spur growth — could push the Federal Reserve and other central banks to raise interest rates or take other measures to cool growth. That would be bad news for riskier investments like stocks.

The Fed and other central banks have said they see the recent increases as transitory caused partly by supply chain issues as economies revive from lockdowns, and that they have no plans to remove emergency support for the economy.

Federal Reserve policymakers will release the minutes from their April meeting on Wednesday.

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Inflation Is Here. What Now?

The central fact of the American economy in mid-2021 is that demand for all sorts of goods and services has surged. But supplies are coming back slowly, with the economy acting like a creaky machine that was turned off for a year and has some rusty parts.

The result, as underlined in new government data this week, is shortages and price inflation across many parts of the economy. That is putting the Biden administration and the Federal Reserve in a jam that is only partly of their own making.

Higher prices and the other problems that result from an economy that reboots itself are frustrating, but should be temporary. Still, the longer that the surges in prices continue and the more parts of the economy that they encompass, the greater the chances that Americans’ psychology about prices and inflation could shift in ways that become self-sustaining.

For the last few decades, companies have resisted raising prices or paying higher wages because they felt that doing so would cost them too much business. That put a damper on inflation across the economy. The question is whether current circumstances are evolving in a way that could change that.

shortage of limes, their prices spike and people use more lemons.

after a cyberattack shut down a major pipeline, are truly random events that tell us virtually nothing about underlying supply and demand or future inflation.

Some other sectors seem poised to experience price rises. Restaurants, for example, are complaining of severe labor shortages that are forcing them to curtail service or sharply raise pay for line cooks and dishwashers. If they try to reflect those higher costs in their prices, it will cause the price of food away from home to start rising faster than the (already fairly high) 3.8 percent figure over the last year.

Professional inflation-watchers are on close watch for signs that these forces might be unleashing a form of thinking about price dynamics unseen since the early 1980s, when prices rose in part because everyone expected them to.

The Fed is betting that won’t happen — that even if there are several months of surging prices, it will be at worst a one-time adjustment, and potentially something that reverses as old spending patterns return and workers return to their jobs.

“If past experience is any guide, production will rise to meet the level of goods demand before too long,” the Fed governor Lael Brainard said in a speech this week. “A limited period of pandemic-related price increases is unlikely to durably change inflation dynamics.”

For now, movements in key financial markets mostly align with the Fed view.

Futures contracts for major commodities like oil and copper, for example, suggest that traders expect prices to fall slightly in the years ahead, not rise further.

And in the bond market, even after a surge in longer-term interest rates following the high inflation reading Wednesday, most signs point to future inflation consistent with the 2 percent the Fed aims for.

Still, the level of future inflation implied by those bond prices has risen significantly in the last few weeks, meaning further moves are likely to increase worries that the inflation issues will be not-so-transitory after all. And the pattern could change abruptly if more evidence starts to arrive that the outlook for inflation is becoming unmoored.

“We aren’t obviously on the way to a very high and persistent inflation outcome,” said Brian Sack, director of global economics at the hedge fund D.E. Shaw and a former senior Federal Reserve official. “But we’re at an inflection point, in that the rise in inflation expectations to date has been a policy success, but a rise from here could become a policy problem.”

The Fed may believe that the evidence emerging in various corners of the economy is a one-time occurrence that will fade into memory before too long. The Biden administration is betting its agenda on the same idea.

Ultimately, what matters more than whatever the bond market does is how ordinary Americans who make everyday economic decisions — demanding raises or not, paying more for a car or not — view things. Can they wait for the complex machinery of the American economy to fully crank into gear?

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Europe upgrades its economic outlook as the British economy rebounds.

The economic outlook has brightened considerably across Europe after lockdowns restricted growth at the start of the year. Now, economists foresee the complete recovery by the end of next year from the early effects of the pandemic.

The British economy grew 2.1 percent in March from the previous month, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday. The reopening of schools was one of the biggest reasons for the larger-than-expected jump in economic growth, as well as a rise in retail spending even though many stores remained closed because of lockdowns.

The statistics agency estimated that gross domestic product fell 1.5 percent in the first quarter, slightly less than economists surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted, while the country was under lockdown with nonessential stores, restaurants and other services such as hairdressers shut.

Though the British economy is still nearly 9 percent smaller than it was at the end of 2019, before the pandemic, the Bank of England forecasts it to return to that size by the end of this year.

European Commission also upgraded its forecasts for the region on Wednesday. It predicted the European Union economies would grow 4.2 percent this year, up from a forecast of 3.7 percent three months ago. Germany’s economy is forecast to grow 3.4 percent this year and Spain, which suffered Europe’s deepest recession last year, is expected to grow nearly 6 percent.

“The E.U. and euro area economies are expected to rebound strongly as vaccination rates increase and restrictions are eased,” the commission, the executive arm for the European Union, said on Wednesday. The recovery will be driven by household spending, investment and a rising demand for European exports, it said.

Still, despite the optimistic outlook, the commission warned that the risks were “high and will remain so as long as the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic hangs over the economy.”

Even as millions of people were vaccinated, the number of new coronavirus cases globally reached a peak in late April as the pandemic has struck especially hard in India. The uneven distribution of vaccines around the world and the emergence of new variants has the potential to set back the recovery.

The National Institute Of Economic and Social Research in London said on Monday that it did not expect the British economy to return to its prepandemic size until the end of 2022, predicting a slower recovery than the central bank.

Economists at the institute expect lower global growth because of uncertainty about the global vaccine rollout and lingering doubts about the end of the pandemic inducing more people to hold onto their savings, rather than spend it.

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