In recent years, emerging markets have often raised interest rates in anticipation of the Fed’s slow and steady moves to avoid big swings in their currency values, which depend partly on interest rate differences across borders. But this set of rate increases is different: Inflation is running at its fastest pace in decades in many places, and a range of developed-economy central banks, including the European Central Bank, the Swiss National Bank, the Bank of Canada and the Reserve Bank of Australia, are joining — or may join — the Fed in pushing rates quickly higher.

“It’s not something we’ve seen in the last few decades,” said Bruce Kasman, chief economist and head of global economic research at JPMorgan Chase.

The last time so many major nations abruptly raised rates in tandem to fight such rapid inflation was in the 1980s, when the contours of global central banking were different: The 19-country euro currency bloc that the E.C.B. sets policy for did not exist yet, and global financial markets were less developed.

That so many central banks are now facing off against rapid inflation — and trying to control it by slowing their economies — increases the chance for market turmoil as an era of very low rates ends and as nations and companies try to adjust to changing capital flows. Those changing flows can influence whether countries and businesses are able to sell debt and other securities to raise money.

“Financial conditions have tightened due to rising, broad-based inflationary pressures, geopolitical uncertainty brought on by Russia’s war against Ukraine, and a slowdown in global growth,” Janet L. Yellen, the U.S. Treasury secretary, said in speech last week. “Now, portfolio investment is beginning to flow out of emerging markets.”

fastest pace since 1983. In the United Kingdom, it is similarly at a 40-year-high.

kick off rate increases back in December and has been steadily raising rates since. Policymakers are increasingly worried about inflation creating a cost-of-living crisis in Britain and worry that higher rates could compound economic pain. At the same time, they have signaled that they could act more forcefully, taking their cue from their global peers. There is a “willingness — should circumstances require — to adopt a faster pace of tightening,” Huw Pill, the chief economist of the Bank of England, said this month.

“Many central banks are looking at this as a sort of existential question about getting inflation and inflation expectations down,” said Matthew Luzzetti, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank.

The Fed raised rates by a quarter point in March, half a point in May, and three-quarters of a percentage point in June. While its officials have predicted that they will maintain that pace in July, they have also been clear that an even bigger rate increase is possible.

“Inflation has to be our focus, every meeting and every day,” Christopher Waller, a Fed governor, said during a speech last week. “The spending and pricing decisions people and businesses make every day depend on their expectations of future inflation, which in turn depend on whether they believe the Fed is sufficiently committed to its inflation target.”

The Bank of Canada has already gone for a full percentage point move, surprising investors last week with its largest move since 1998, while warning of more to come.

said in a statement.

of other central banks have made big moves. More action is coming. Central banks around the world have been clear that they expect to keep moving borrowing costs higher into the autumn.

“I wouldn’t say we’re at peak tightening quite yet,” said Brendan McKenna, an economist at Wells Fargo. “We could go even more aggressive from here.”

A key question is what that will mean for the global economy. The World Bank in June projected in a report that global growth would slow sharply this year but remain positive. Still, there is “considerable” risk of a situation in which growth stagnates and inflation remains high, David Malpass, head of the World Bank, wrote.

If inflation does become entrenched, or even show signs of shifting expectations, central banks may have to respond even more aggressively than they are now, intentionally crushing growth.

Mr. Kasman said the open question, when it comes to the Fed, is: “How far have they gone toward the conclusion that they need to kick us in the teeth, here?”

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Economy Is at Risk of Recession by a Force Hiding in Plain Sight

This past week brought home the magnitude of the overlapping crises assailing the global economy, intensifying fears of recession, job losses, hunger and a plunge on stock markets.

At the root of this torment is a force so elemental that it has almost ceased to warrant mention — the pandemic. That force is far from spent, confronting policymakers with grave uncertainty. Their policy tools are better suited for more typical downturns, not a rare combination of diminishing economic growth and soaring prices.

Major economies including the United States and France reported their latest data on inflation, revealing that prices on a vast range of goods rose faster in June than anytime in four decades.

China reported that its economy, the world’s second-largest, expanded by a mere 0.4 percent from April through June compared with the same period last year. That performance — astonishingly anemic by the standards of recent decades — endangered prospects for scores of countries that trade heavily with China, including the United States. It reinforced the realization that the global economy has lost a vital engine.

The specter of slowing economic growth combined with rising prices has even revived a dreaded word that was a regular part of the vernacular in the 1970s, the last time the world suffered similar problems: stagflation.

Most of the challenges tearing at the global economy were set in motion by the world’s reaction to the spread of Covid-19 and its attendant economic shock, even as they have been worsened by the latest upheaval — Russia’s disastrous attack on Ukraine, which has diminished the supply of food, fertilizer and energy.

“The pandemic itself disrupted not only the production and transportation of goods, which was the original front of inflation, but also how and where we work, how and where we educate our children, global migration patterns,” said Julia Coronado, an economist at the University of Texas at Austin, speaking this past week during a discussion convened by the Brookings Institution in Washington. “Pretty much everything in our lives has been disrupted by the pandemic, and then we layer on to that a war in Ukraine.”

Great Supply Chain Disruption.

meat production to shipping exploited their market dominance to rack up record profits.

The pandemic prompted governments from the United States to Europe to unleash trillions of dollars in emergency spending to limit joblessness and bankruptcy. Many economists now argue that they did too much, stimulating spending power to the point of stoking inflation, while the Federal Reserve waited too long to raise interest rates.

Now playing catch-up, central banks like the Fed have moved assertively, lifting rates at a rapid clip to try to snuff out inflation, even while fueling worries that they could set off a recession.

Given the mishmash of conflicting indicators found in the American economy, the severity of any slowdown is difficult to predict. The unemployment rate — 3.6 percent in June — is at its lowest point in almost half a century.

American consumers have enhanced fears of a downturn. This past week, the International Monetary Fund cited weaker consumer spending in slashing expectations for economic growth this year in the United States, from 2.9 percent to 2.3 percent. Avoiding recession will be “increasingly challenging,” the fund warned.

Orwellian lockdowns that have constrained business and life in general. The government expresses resolve in maintaining lockdowns, now affecting 247 million people in 31 cities that collectively produce $4.3 trillion in annual economic activity, according to a recent estimate from Nomura, the Japanese securities firm.

But the endurance of Beijing’s stance — its willingness to continue riding out the economic damage and public anger — constitutes one of the more consequential variables in a world brimming with uncertainty.

sanctions have restricted sales of Russia’s enormous stocks of oil and natural gas in an effort to pressure the country’s strongman leader, Vladimir V. Putin, to relent. The resulting hit to the global supply has sent energy prices soaring.

The price of a barrel of Brent crude oil rose by nearly a third in the first three months after the invasion, though recent weeks have seen a reversal on the assumption that weaker economic growth will translate into less demand.

major pipeline carrying gas from Russia to Germany cut the supply sharply last month, that heightened fears that Berlin could soon ration energy consumption. That would have a chilling effect on German industry just as it contends with supply chain problems and the loss of exports to China.

euro, which has surrendered more than 10 percent of its value against the dollar this year. That has increased the cost of Europe’s imports, another driver of inflation.

ports from the United States to Europe to China.

“Everyone following the economic situation right now, including central banks, we do not have a clear answer on how to deal with this situation,” said Kjersti Haugland, chief economist at DNB Markets, an investment bank in Norway. “You have a lot of things going on at the same time.”

The most profound danger is bearing down on poor and middle-income countries, especially those grappling with large debt burdens, like Pakistan, Ghana and El Salvador.

As central banks have tightened credit in wealthy nations, they have spurred investors to abandon developing countries, where risks are greater, instead taking refuge in rock-solid assets like U.S. and German government bonds, now paying slightly higher rates of interest.

This exodus of cash has increased borrowing costs for countries from sub-Saharan Africa to South Asia. Their governments face pressure to cut spending as they send debt payments to creditors in New York, London and Beijing — even as poverty increases.

U.N. World Food Program declared this month.

Among the biggest variables that will determine what comes next is the one that started all the trouble — the pandemic.

The return of colder weather in northern countries could bring another wave of contagion, especially given the lopsided distribution of Covid vaccines, which has left much of humanity vulnerable, risking the emergence of new variants.

So long as Covid-19 remains a threat, it will discourage some people from working in offices and dining in nearby restaurants. It will dissuade some from getting on airplanes, sleeping in hotel rooms, or sitting in theaters.

Since the world was first seized by the public health catastrophe more than two years ago, it has been a truism that the ultimate threat to the economy is the pandemic itself. Even as policymakers now focus on inflation, malnutrition, recession and a war with no end in sight, that observation retains currency.

“We are still struggling with the pandemic,” said Ms. Haugland, the DNB Markets economist. “We cannot afford to just look away from that being a risk factor.”

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Europe’s central banks jack up interest rates to fight inflation surge

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  • SNB unexpectedly hikes by half a percent
  • Bank of England raises rates by 25 bps
  • Hungary unexpectedly lifts one-week deposit rate
  • Inflation painfully high and not yet peaking

BERN/LONDON, June 16 (Reuters) – Central banks across Europe raised interest rates on Thursday, some by amounts that shocked markets, and hinted at even higher borrowing costs to come to tame soaring inflation that is eroding savings and squeezing corporate profits.

Fuelled initially by soaring oil prices in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, inflation has broadened out to everything from food to services with double digit readings in parts of the continent.

Such levels have not been seen in some places since the aftermath of the oil crisis of the 1970s.

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The Swiss National Bank and the National Bank of Hungary both caught markets off guard with big upward steps, just hours after their U.S. counterpart the Federal Reserve lifted rates by the most in almost three decades. read more

The Bank of England meanwhile lifted borrowing costs by the quarter point markets had expected. read more

The moves come just a day after the European Central Bank agreed plans in an emergency meeting to contain borrowing costs in the bloc’s south so it could forge ahead with rates rises in both July and September. read more

“We are in a new era for central banks, where lowering inflation is their only objective, even at the expense of financial stability and growth,” George Lagarias, Chief Economist at Mazars Wealth Management said.

The day’s biggest moves came in Switzerland where the SNB raised its policy rate to -0.25% from the -0.75%, a step so large, not a single economist polled by Reuters had predicted it.

The first SNB hike since 2007 is unlikely to be the last, however, and the bank could be out of negative territory this year, some economists said.

“The new inflation forecast shows that further increases in the policy rate may be necessary in the foreseeable future,” SNB Chairman Thomas Jordan told a news conference.

The Swiss franc jumped almost 1.8% against the euro on the decision and was headed for the biggest daily rise since January 2015 when the SNB unhooked the franc from its euro peg.

TIGHTROPE

In London, the Bank of England was more cautious but said it was ready to act “forcefully” to stamp out dangers posed by an inflation rate heading above 11%. read more

It was the fifth time that the BoE has raised borrowing costs since December and the British benchmark rate is now at its highest since January 2009.

Three of nine rate setters however voted for a bigger, 50 basis point increase, suggesting that the bank will be under pressure to keep raising rates, even as economic growth slows sharply.

“Central bankers are teetering along a tightrope, with the biggest concern that raising rates too quickly could tip economies into recession,” Maike Currie, Investment Director for Personal Investing at Fidelity International said.

“Monetary policy tightening is a very blunt tool to manage a very precarious situation.”

Despite the hike, sterling fell sharply as some in the market had bet on a bigger move given the Fed’s 75 basis points hike the previous evening. The weaker currency, however, means higher imported inflation and further pressure to raise rates. read more

The pound was last at $1.2085 against the dollar, down three quarters of a percent on the day.

In Budapest meanwhile, the Hungarian central bank unexpectedly raised its one-week deposit rate by 50 basis points to 7.25% at a weekly tender, also to tame stubbornly rising inflation now running in double-digits.

Barnabas Virag, the bank’s deputy governor said the increase far was from the last and the bank would continue its rate hike cycle with “predictable and decisive” steps until it sees signs that inflation is peaking, probably in the autumn.

The hike also comes as the nation’s currency has lost close to 7% of its value this year, increasing inflation further via higher import prices.

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Writing by Balazs Koranyi in Frankfurt; Additional reporting by William Schomberg in London, Krisztina Than in Budapest, Mike Shields and Silke Koltrowitz in Zurich; Editing by Toby Chopra

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Central banks opt for shock and awe to tame inflation

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The exterior of the Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve Board Building is seen in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 14, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger

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LONDON, June 17 (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve this week delivered its biggest interest rate rise in over a quarter of a century and even the Swiss National Bank took markets by surprise with an aggressive rate hike.

It leaves the Bank of Japan the only major developed world central bank still clinging to the inflation-is-transitory mantra.

Here’s a look at where policymakers stand in the race to contain red-hot inflation.

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Reuters Graphics Reuters Graphics

1) UNITED STATES

The Federal Reserve vaulted to the top-hawk spot on June 15, raising the target federal funds rate by three quarters of a percentage point to a 1.5%-1.75% range.

It acted days after data showed 8.6% annual U.S. inflation, triggering a market frenzy over potentially even more aggressive responses in the coming months.

The Fed is also reducing its $9 trillion stash of assets accumulated during the pandemic.

Central bank balance sheets are starting to shrink — slowly

2) NEW ZEALAND

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand raised its official cash rate by 50 basis points (bps) to 2% on May 25, a level not seen since 2016. That was its fifth straight rate hike. read more

It projected rates to double to 4% over the coming year and stay there until 2024. New Zealand inflation reached a three-decade high of 6.9% in the year to Q1, versus a 1-3% target.

New Zealand among the most aggressive central banks

3) CANADA

The Bank of Canada delivered a second consecutive 50 bps rate increase to 1.5% on June 1, and said it would “act more forcefully” if needed. read more

With April inflation at 6.8%, Governor Tiff Macklem has not ruled out a 75 bps or larger increase and says rates could go above the 2%-3% neutral range for a period.

Deputy BoC governor Paul Beaudry has warned of “galloping” inflation and markets price an unprecedented third consecutive 50 bps increase in July.

Major central banks are hiking rates

4) BRITAIN

The Bank of England (BoE) raised interest rates by 25 bps on Thursday and pledged to act “forcefully” to stamp out dangers posed by a UK inflation rate heading above 11%. read more

The British benchmark interest rate is now at its highest since January 2009. The BoE has now raised borrowing costs five times since December.

Sterling

5) NORWAY

Norway’s Norges Bank was the first big developed economy to kick off a rate-hiking cycle last year and has raised rates three times since September. It is expected to increase its 0.75% rate again on June 23 and plans seven more moves by end-2023.

6) AUSTRALIA

With the economy recovering smartly and inflation at a 20-year high of 5.1%, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) raised rates by a surprise 50 bps on June 6. It was the RBA’s second straight move after insisting for months policy tightening was way off. read more

Money markets price in another 50 bps rise in July.

7) SWEDEN

Another late-comer to the inflation battle, Sweden’s Riksbank raised rates to 0.25% in April in a quarter-point move. With inflation at 6.4%, versus its 2% target, the Riksbank may now opt for bigger moves.

Having said as recently as February that rates would not rise until 2024, the Riksbank expects to hike two or three more times this year.

8) EURO ZONE

Now firmly in the hawkish camp, and facing record-high inflation, the European Central Bank (ECB) said on June 9 it would end bond-buying on July 1, hike rates by 25 bps that month for the first time since 2011 and again in September.

But without details on a tool to prevent borrowing costs for Southern European nations diverging too much above those of Germany, markets will test the ECB’s resolve.

The bank now plans to accelerate work on a potential new tool to contain so-called bond market fragmentation, and skew proceeds from maturing pandemic-era bond holdings into stressed markets. read more

Euro zone inflation is at record highs

9) SWITZERLAND

On June 16, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) unexpectedly raised its -0.75% interest rate, the world’s lowest, by 50 bps, sending the franc soaring read more .

Recent franc weakness has contributed to driving Swiss inflation towards 14-year highs and SNB governor Thomas Jordan said he no longer sees the franc as highly valued. That has opened the door to bets on more rate hikes; a 100 bps move is now priced for September.

10) JAPAN

That leaves the Bank of Japan (BoJ) as the holdout dove.

On Friday, it maintained ultra-low interest rates and vowed to defend its cap on bond yields with unlimited bond-buying. It holds 10-year yields in a 0%-0.25% range.

BoJ boss Haruhiko Kuroda stressed commitment to maintaining stimulus, warning of risks to the economy from tighter policy read more .

In a nod to yen weakness, Kuroda called its rapid decline to 24-year lows “undesirable” as it heightened uncertainty.

The BoJ may come under political pressure, however, given inflation may exceed the 2% target for the second straight month and elections loom in July. Hedge funds, meanwhile, are betting it can’t keep up huge bond-buying for ever.

Japan keeps yield curve control, but pressure for change is building
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Reporting by Sujata Rao, Dhara Ranasinghe and Yoruk Bahceli Additional reporting by Tommy Wilkes and Saikat Chatterjee
Editing by Mark Potter

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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French Election: Macron Holds Off Far-Right Push

Credit…Thibault Camus/Associated Press

PARIS — Officials across Europe swiftly reacted with a sigh of relief on Sunday after President Emmanuel Macron of France comfortably beat his far-right rival, Marine Le Pen, in the presidential election.

“Together, we will advance France and Europe,” Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, wrote in French on Twitter.

Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, wrote on Twitter that “we can count on France for five more years,” while Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany said Mr. Macron’s re-election was a “vote of confidence in Europe.”

Mr. Macron’s office said on Sunday that Mr. Scholz had called Mr. Macron to congratulate him. “It is the first call that the president has received and taken, a sign of Franco-German friendship,” his office said.

At home, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Mr. Macron’s foreign minister, told France 2 television that he was “convinced” Mr. Macron would be “up to the challenges that await.”

Final results are not yet published, but French pollsters project that Mr. Macron has won with roughly 58 percent of the vote. Still, his political opponents warned that his next term would have to take into account the simmering anger in the French electorate, as the far right won more of the vote than it has in decades.

“There has never been such a vote of despair,” Christian Jacob, the head of the conservative Républicain party, said on French television.

Roughly 28 percent of the French electorate sat out this round of the election — the highest level in over 50 years in the second round of a presidential vote.

“He is floating in a sea of abstention, and blank or null ballots,” Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the firebrand leftist who came in a strong third in the first round of the elections early this month, said in a speech on Sunday of Mr. Macron.

Mr. Mélenchon hopes to become prime minister if his party gets a strong majority in the parliamentary elections, to be held in June. “The third round starts tonight,” he said.

Top European leaders had expressed barely veiled alarm at the possibility of a Le Pen victory. Last week, the leaders of Germany, Portugal and Spain had taken the highly unusual step in an opinion article in Le Monde of implicitly urging French voters to reject her.

On Sunday, Christian Lindner, the finance minister in Germany, said a united Europe was the biggest winner. “This choice was a directional choice,” he wrote on Twitter. “It was about fundamental questions of values.”

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain welcomed Mr. Macron’s victory as proof that the French want “a free, strong and just E.U.”

Officials outside of the European Union reacted, as well.

President Volodomyr Zelensky of Ukraine also congratulated Mr. Macron on his victory, calling him a “real friend of Ukraine” on Twitter. “I appreciate his support and I am convinced that we will move forward together toward new shared victories,” he wrote.

And, Christine Lagarde, the head of the European Central Bank, extended her “warmest congratulations” to Mr. Macron.

“Strong leadership is essential in these uncertain times and your tireless dedication will be much needed to tackle the challenges we are facing in Europe,” Ms. Lagarde wrote on Twitter.

And Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain tweeted that “France is one of our closest and most important allies.”

“I look forward to continuing to work together on the issues which matter most to our two countries and to the world,” Mr. Johnson wrote.

Liz Alderman and Raphael Minder contributed reporting.

Correction: 

April 24, 2022

An earlier version of this article misstated the position of Christine Lagarde. She is the head of the European Central Bank, not the head of the International Monetary Fund.

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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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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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Europe’s economy is expected to shrink while the U.S.’s grows.

European authorities will release data on Friday that is widely expected to show another economic downturn over the first three months of the year as the still-raging pandemic has prompted governments to extend lockdowns.

Coming a day after the United States disclosed that its economy expanded 1.6 percent over the same period — a robust 6.4 percent annualized rate — the expected European contraction presents a contrast of fortunes on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

Propelled by dramatic public expenditures to stimulate growth, as well as swift increases in vaccination rates, the United States — the world’s largest economy — expanded rapidly during the first months of 2021. At the same time, the 19 nations that share the euro currency were likely caught in the second part of a so-called double-dip recession, reflecting far less aggressive stimulus spending and a botched effort to secure vaccines.

But economic growth figures represent a snapshot of the past, and recent weeks have produced encouraging signs that Europe is on the mend. Even as Covid-19 spreads alarmingly in major economies like Germany and France, factories have revived production, while growing numbers of people are on the move in cities.

European Union’s recent deal to secure doses from Pfizer.

In depriving households of the opportunity to spend, the pandemic has yielded savings — money that may surge into businesses as fear of the virus fades.

Most economists and the European Central Bank expect the eurozone to expand at a blistering pace over the rest of 2021, yielding growth of more than 4 percent for the full year.

International Monetary Fund. That compares to 10 percent in Germany.

But Europe also began the crisis with far more comprehensive social safety net programs. While the United States directed cash to those set back by the pandemic, Europe limited a surge in unemployment.

“Europe has more insurance schemes,” said Kjersti Haugland, chief economist at DNB Markets, an investment bank in Oslo. “You don’t fall as hard, but you don’t rebound that sharply either.”

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