Fed officials remain committed to wrestling America’s rapid inflation lower, and they have raised interest rates at the quickest pace since the 1980s to try to slow the economy and bring supply and demand into balance — making supersize rate moves of three-quarters of a percentage point at each of their past two meetings. Another big adjustment will be up for debate at their next meeting in September, policymakers have said.

But investors interpreted July’s unexpectedly pronounced inflation slowdown as a sign that policymakers could take a gentler route, raising rates a half-point next month. Stocks soared more than 2 percent on Wednesday, as Wall Street bet that the Fed might become less aggressive, which would decrease the chances that it would plunge the economy into a recession.

“It was as good as the markets and the Fed could have hoped for from this report,” said Aneta Markowska, chief financial economist at Jefferies. “I do think it removes the urgency for the Fed.”

Still, officials who spoke on Wednesday remained cautious about inflation. Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, called the report the “first hint” of a move in the right direction, while Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said that it was “positive” but that price increases remained “unacceptably high.”

Policymakers have been hoping for more than a year that price increases will begin to cool, only to have those expectations repeatedly dashed. Supply chain issues have made goods more expensive, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent commodity prices soaring, a shortage of workers pushed wages and service prices higher and a dearth of housing has fueled rising rents.

toward $4 in July after peaking at $5 in June, based on data from AAA. That decline helped overall inflation to cool last month. The trend has continued into August, which should help inflation to continue to moderate.

But it is unclear what will happen next. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects that fuel costs will continue to come down, but geopolitical instability and the speed of U.S. oil and gas production during hurricane season, which can take refineries offline, are wild cards in that outlook.

declined in July, perhaps in part because borrowing costs rose. Mortgage rates have increased this year and appear to be weighing on the housing market, which could be helping to drive down prices for appliances.

slow hiring. Wages are still rising rapidly, and, as that happens, so are prices on many services. Rents, which make up a chunk of overall inflation and are closely linked to wage growth, continue to climb rapidly — which is concerning, because they tend to change course only slowly.

Rents of primary residences climbed 0.7 percent in July from the prior month, and are up 6.3 percent over the past year. Before the pandemic, that measure typically climbed about 3.5 percent annually.

Those forces could keep inflation undesirably rapid even if supply chains unsnarl and fuel prices continue to fall. The Fed aims for 2 percent inflation over time, based on a different but related inflation measure.

“The Covid reopening and revenge travel pressures have eased — and are probably going to continue easing,” said Laura Rosner-Warburton, senior U.S. economist at MacroPolicy Perspectives. But she also struck a note of caution, adding: “Under the hood, we’re still seeing pressures in rent. There’s still sticky inflation here.”

And given how high inflation has been for more than a year now, Fed policymakers will avoid reading too much into a single report. Inflation slowed last summer only to speed up again in fall.

“We might see goods inflation and commodity inflation come down, but at the same time see the services side of the economy stay up — and that’s what we’ve got to keep watching for,” Loretta Mester, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, said during a recent appearance. “It can’t just be a one month. Oil prices went down in July; that’ll feed through to the July inflation report, but there’s a lot of risk that oil prices will go up in the fall.”

Ms. Mester said that she “welcomes” a slowdown in some types of prices, but that it would be a mistake to “cry victory too early” and allow inflation to continue without taking necessary action.

For many Americans who are struggling to adjust their lifestyles to rapidly climbing costs at the grocery store and dry cleaners, an annual inflation rate that is still more than four times its normal speed is unlikely to feel like a big improvement, even as lower gas prices and rising pay rates do offer some relief.

Stephanie Bailey, 54, has a solid family income in Waco, Texas. Even so, she has been cutting back on meals at local Tex-Mex restaurants and new clothes because of the climbing prices, which she sees “everywhere.” At Starbucks, she opts for cold, noncoffee drinks, which in some cases are cheaper.

Her son, who is in his 20s, has moved back in with his parents. Rent had become out of reach on his salary working at a vitamin manufacturer. He is now teaching at a local high school.

“It’s just so expensive, with housing,” Ms. Bailey said. “He was having a hard time making ends meet.”

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UK leadership candidate Truss: junk food taxes “are over”

LONDON, Aug 2 (Reuters) – The frontrunner to become British prime minister, Liz Truss, said she would scrap plans to restrict multi-buy deals on food and drink high in fat, salt, or sugar and would not impose any new levies on unhealthy food.

Britain already taxes sugar in soft drinks, and in May delayed until October next year rules banning deals such “buy one get one free” on food and drink high in fat, salt or sugar due to the cost-of-living crisis. read more

“Those taxes are over,” Truss said in an interview with the Daily Mail. “Talking about whether or not somebody should buy a two-for-one offer? No. There is definitely enough of that.”

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Truss said Britons wanted the government to focus on things like delivering good transport links, communications infrastructure and cutting National Health Service waiting lists.

“They don’t want the government telling them what to eat,” she said.

The ban was also due to include restrictions on free refills for soft drinks in restaurants. Limits on the location of unhealthy foods in shops are still due to go ahead in October.

Opinion polls of Conservative Party members, who will elect their new leader and the country’s next prime minister, show Truss is leading her rival former finance minister Rishi Sunak ahead of a result due on Sept. 5.

The chairman of Britain’s biggest supermarket group Tesco (TSCO.L), John Allan, in June criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government for not being consistent on policy, including over anti-obesity measures. read more

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Reporting by Kylie MacLellan. Editing by Andrew MacAskill

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U.S. July payrolls rise more than expected

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An employment application form is displayed during a restaurant job career fair organized by the industry group High Road Restaurants in New York City, U.S., May 13, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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NEW YORK, Aug 5 (Reuters) – U.S. job growth surged much more than expected in July and the unemployment rate ticked lower, giving the Federal Reserve enough cushion to stay on its aggressive rate hike path as it tries to tame inflation.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 528,000, the Labor Department’s employment report showed on Friday. June was revised upward to show payrolls rising by 398,000 instead of the previously reported 372,000. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 250,000 jobs added last month.

Employers continued to raise wages at a steady pace last month. Average hourly earnings increased 0.5% in July after gaining 0.4% in June. That increased the year-on-year increase to 5.2% from 5.1% in June. read more

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MARKET REACTION:

STOCKS: S&P e-mini futures dropped sharply, last down 1.1%

BONDS: The yield on 10-year Treasury notes shot higher and was up 10.1 basis points to 2.777%; The two-year U.S. Treasury yield, was up 15.4 basis points at 3.191%.

FOREX: The dollar index jumped and was last up 0.956% at 106.700

COMMENTS:

BRIAN JACOBSEN, SENIOR INVESTMENT STRATEGIST, ALLSPRING GLOBAL INVESTMENTS, MENOMONEE FALLS, WISCONSIN

“The headline number is really impressive, but maybe that’s more style over substance. The number of multiple jobholders shot up more 559,000. Is some of the employment strength superficial and just because people are trying to work more in order to make ends meet?”

PETER CARDILLO, CHIEF MARKET ECONOMIST, SPARTAN CAPITAL SECURITIES, NEW YORK

“Payrolls were nearly double the amount we were looking for. There’s nothing to suggest this report this weak at all. Unemployment actually went down to 3.5%.”

“This is very hot employment data. It means the Fed is going to continue to raise interest rates. Bonds are getting crushed. Stocks are coming down.”

“The bottom line is this gives the upper hand to the Fed, which says we’re not in a recession yet and the Fed will probably tighten. If we get one more number like this in August, the Fed could hike by 75 basis points in September rather than 50 basis points.”

“I’m surprised in the strength in wage growth, I was looking for a cooling off. That’s the key to the report. That’s why we’re seeing a sell off in the bond market and it proves that inflation is still a big problem.”

PAUL NOLTE, PORTFOLIO MANAGER AT KINGSVIEW ASSET MANAGEMENT, CHICAGO

“What we’ve heard from the various Fed governors this week about it being too early to pivot away from a tightening policy is definitely in place with the jobs report that is THIS hot.”

“When you look back at the period from 2015 to 2019, the average jobless jobs gain was 190,000, and the unemployment rate was north of 4. We’re well below that as far as the unemployment rate, and certainly we’ve been averaging 200,000 to 300,000 new jobs going forward, so the job market continues to be much hotter than historically normal times. So it gives the Fed reason to continue to raise rates. And that is what’s got the market on edge.”

“The number’s not a surprise. There were some hints at it from some of the Fed governors. The inflation numbers next week will complete that picture. The inflation rate will come down, my guess is we get down to maybe 5% or 6% by the end of the year. But the hard part is going to be getting from that 5%, 6% to 2%. That’s going to require a more aggressive Fed. So the Fed is still on target to raise rates, 75 basis points makes sense in light of the data, and they will continue at each of their meetings through the end of the year.”

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Analysis: East Europe’s party is over as double-digit inflation bites

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ESZTERGOM, Hungary, Aug 5 (Reuters) – In the weeks that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, western Europe’s big economies began to falter. But further east it was still boom-time thanks to double-digit wage hikes and generous state handouts in some countries.

Not any more.

A sharp slowdown in retail sales and plunging confidence indicators show that the cost of living crisis has caught up with Europe’s eastern wing, where people now face a harsh reality check as stubborn double-digit inflation erodes their incomes while food price rises top 15%-22% and energy costs soar.

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As household consumption takes a hit, analysts are downgrading their GDP forecasts and the risk of a Europe-wide recession looms.

Families have started to tighten their belts. Poles are taking shorter holidays, Czechs are saving on restaurant bills while some seek second jobs, and in Hungary – where food inflation alone was an annual 22.1% in June – people are cutting down on grocery bills and purchases of consumer durables as a slide in the forint currency pushes up import prices.

“I went into the bakery one day and a loaf of bread cost 550 forints. I go in the next day and it costs 650. For God’s sake!”, exclaimed Lajos, a 73-year-old man shopping at a market in the northern city of Esztergom on the Danube river.

Standing by his bicycle, grey-bearded Lajos, who did not give his family name, said the surge in food prices had consumed some of his monthly pension and he would not be able to pay higher utility bills, which will rise after the government last month scrapped price caps for what it called higher-usage households.

So he is making his own plans.

“I can heat with gas but also wood … as I have a tile-stove. So with my wife we will move into one room, heat up the stove, put on some warm sweaters and watch TV like that.”

Across Hungary, retail sales growth (HURETY=ECI) slowed to an annual 4.5% in June from 10.9% in May, with furniture and electronic goods sales down by 4.3%, suggesting the impact of huge tax breaks and fiscal transfers from Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government before April’s elections has now faded.

Polish retail sales growth also slowed to an annual 3.2% in June from 8.2% in May, while Czech adjusted retail sales excluding cars and motorcycles dropped by 6.0% year-on-year in June after a fall of 6.6% in May, data showed on Friday.

“Households have reacted to the rising cost of living in a meaningful way, and the consumption of things has started to slow,” said Peter Virovacz, an analyst at ING in Budapest.

According to a survey by the National Bank of Hungary on Friday, commercial banks expect demand for loans to decline and credit conditions to tighten in the second half.

BELT-TIGHTENING

The slowdown in domestic demand, rising interest rates, government spending cuts and companies’ rising costs look set to dampen economic growth in Central Europe in the second half of this year and slow them down sharply in 2023.

Citigroup said Hungary’s economy could grow by close to 5% in 2022 but that there were downside risks to its 1% forecast for next year.

“The risk of prolonged high energy prices keeping inflation in double-digit territory even in 2023 and our updated Euro Area in-house forecasts point towards downside risks,” it said.

The Hungarian central bank still projects 2.0%-3.0% growth for 2023, and it will release new forecasts in September.

The Polish economy is expected to grow by 3.8% this year and 3.2% in 2023, according to government projections.

The Czech central bank, the first to call a halt to its rate-hike cycle on Thursday, predicts recession at the turn of the year as it sees the economy contracting 0.4% in the fourth quarter of 2022 and 1% in the first quarter of 2023.

“Our base scenario includes a mild recession – a technical recession – we have two quarters in a row with a quarterly decline there… That would be a healthy recession, which also allows for cutting inflation,” Governor Ales Michl said.

While the summer is still expected to see a boom in the tourism sector, Poles have started to save on trips according to travel website Noclegi.pl.

“We can see that what characterizes this season is the shortening of trips, on average by one day, and postponing the booking until the last moment,” said Natalia Jaworska, an expert at Noclegi.pl. Poles have also begun to save on food.

Data from various restaurant payment services, like Sodexo, have shown falling spending in restaurants in the Czech Republic as well. The STEM polling agency’s latest survey in June found 80% of Czech households were cutting back or limiting their purchases because of fast-rising energy bills.

Czech consumer confidence hit a new low in July, according to the statistics office’s monthly survey, while a survey by think-tank GKI showed the Hungarian consumer confidence index in July plunged to its lowest level since April 2020 during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Martin Hulovec, a 43-year-old Czech film producer, said he was not worried about his income right now, but he was less optimistic about the future.

“The hard times have not arrived yet for me to deal with it immediately… but it will come,” Hulovec said.

“I will certainly seek more energy savings… I will definitely not buy new stuff for the kids, clothing or sport equipment. You can find that secondhand for half the price.”

And he too will be switching on the heating less when winter comes.

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Reporting and writing by Krisztina Than, Addditional repoting by Jason Hovet and Robert Muller in Prague, and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw, Editing by Hugh Lawson

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With Surge in July, U.S. Recovers the Jobs Lost in the Pandemic

U.S. job growth accelerated in July across nearly all industries, restoring nationwide employment to its prepandemic level, despite widespread expectations of a slowdown as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to fight inflation.

Employers added 528,000 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Labor Department said on Friday, more than doubling what forecasters had projected. The unemployment rate ticked down to 3.5 percent, equaling the figure in February 2020, which was a 50-year low.

The robust job growth is welcome news for the Biden administration in a year when red-hot inflation and fears of recession have been recurring economic themes. “Today’s jobs report shows we are making significant progress for working families,” President Biden declared.

broad industry to lose jobs in July was auto manufacturing, which shed about 2,200 as companies continued to struggle to obtain the parts necessary to produce finished vehicles. The public sector added 57,000 employees, particularly teachers, but remained 2.6 percent below its prepandemic level.

In crucial industries like technology, if some employers begin layoffs, those workers are likely to be absorbed by companies that would have liked to staff up but couldn’t find people. And for many kinds of businesses, if orders slow down more broadly, enough had built up to bolster payrolls into autumn.

For example, with mortgage rates rising and new housing starts and permits beginning to fall, jobs in residential construction would be expected to decline. Nevertheless, the construction industry added 32,000 jobs in July.

27 weeks or more sank to 1.1 million in July, while the share of people quitting their jobs has been steady or falling since February. Small businesses have reported that while hiring remains a top concern, availability of workers has improved slightly in recent months.

“Workers by and large have had the luxury of choice over the past year in terms of deciding which of multiple offers to pick,” said Simona Mocuta, chief economist at State Street Global Advisors. “If indeed the consumer sentiment surveys are right and the sense is that things are starting to shift, maybe there’s an incentive for you to make your choice and be done with it.”

suggests, could be due to the increasing prevalence of debilitating long Covid. John Leer, chief economist at the polling and analytics firm Morning Consult, said surveys showed that infection worries persisted — but also that there might simply not be wide enough awareness of the opportunities available.

job openings is above the national average.

She worked in agricultural marketing until about a decade ago, when she decided to stay home with her children. When she started looking for a job again, she found nothing comparable available in the region, and she has been reluctant to switch fields while the family can get by on her husband’s income.

Increasingly, though, she is open to becoming a paralegal, or even working in restaurants, where wages have risen 18.6 percent — not adjusted for inflation — since the beginning of the pandemic.

“I would start bartending as well, or even going back to being wait staff, because there’s something appealing about just showing up, doing a thing, and leaving,” said Ms. Buckley, who is 52. “Everything’s on the table.”

Ben Casselman contributed reporting.

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U.S. Economy Shows Another Decline, Fanning Recession Fears

A key measure of economic output fell for the second straight quarter, raising fears that the United States could be entering a recession — or perhaps that one had already begun.

Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, fell 0.2 percent in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That drop followed a decline of 0.4 percent in the first quarter. The estimates for both periods will be revised in coming months as government statisticians get more complete data.

News of the back-to-back contractions heightened a debate in Washington over whether a recession had begun and, if so, whether President Biden was to blame. Economists largely say that conditions do not meet the formal definition of a recession but that the risks of one are rising.

a bid to tame inflation, and the White House has argued that the slowdown is part of an inevitable and necessary transition to sustainable growth after last year’s rapid recovery.

“Coming off of last year’s historic economic growth — and regaining all the private-sector jobs lost during the pandemic crisis — it’s no surprise that the economy is slowing down as the Federal Reserve acts to bring down inflation,” Mr. Biden said in a statement issued after the release of the G.D.P. report. “But even as we face historic global challenges, we are on the right path, and we will come through this transition stronger and more secure.”

rising consumer prices and declining spending, the American economy is showing clear signs of slowing down, fueling concerns about a potential recession. Here are other eight measures signaling trouble ahead:

“When you’re skating on thin ice, you wonder about what it would take to push you through, and we’re on thin ice right now,” said Diane Swonk, the chief economist for KPMG.

Matthew Martin, 32, is paying more for the butter and eggs that go into the intricately decorated sugar cookies he sells as part of a home business. At the same time, his sales are falling.

“I guess people don’t have as much money to toss at cookies right now,” he said.

Mr. Martin, a single father of two, is trying to cut back on spending, but it isn’t easy. He has replaced trips to the movies with day hikes, but that means spending more on gas. He is hoping to sell his house and move into a less expensive place, but finding a house he can afford to buy has proved difficult, especially as mortgage rates have risen. He has thought about finding a conventional 9-to-5 job to pay the bills, but he would then need to pay for child care for his 4-year-old twins.

“Honestly, I’m not 100 percent sure what I’m going to do,” he said.

defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and lasts more than a few months,” and it bases its decisions on a variety of indicators — usually only months after the fact.

Some forecasters believe a recession can be avoided, if inflation cools enough that the Fed can slow interest rate increases before they take too much of a toll on hiring and spending.

The economy still has important areas of strength. Job growth has remained robust, and, despite a recent uptick in filings for unemployment insurance, there is little sign of a broad increase in job losses.

Households, in the aggregate, are sitting on trillions of dollars in savings built up earlier in the pandemic, which could allow them to weather higher prices and interest rates.

“What drives the U.S. consumer is the healthy labor market, and we should really focus on job growth to capture the turning point in this business cycle,” said Blerina Uruci, an economist at T. Rowe Price. The Labor Department will release data on July’s hiring and unemployment next week.

The lingering effects of the pandemic are making the economy’s signals harder to interpret. Americans bought fewer cars, couches and other goods in the second quarter, but forecasters had long expected spending on goods to fall as consumers shifted back toward prepandemic spending patterns. Indeed, economists argue that a pullback in spending on goods is needed to relieve pressure on overstretched supply chains.

At the same time, spending on services accelerated. That could be a sign of consumers’ resilience in the face of soaring airfares and rental car rates. Or it could merely reflect a temporary willingness to put up with high prices, which will fade along with the summer sun.

“There is going to be this element of, ‘We haven’t had a summer vacation in three years, so we’re just going to take one, no matter how much it costs,’” said Aditya Bhave, a senior economist for Bank of America. “The question is what happens after the summer.”

Avital Ungar is trying to interpret the conflicting signals in real time. Ms. Ungar operates a small business running food tours for tourists and corporate groups in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

When restaurants closed and travel stopped early in the pandemic, Ms. Ungar had no revenue. She made it through by offering virtual happy hours and online cooking classes. When in-person tours came back, business was uneven, shifting with each new coronavirus variant. Ms. Ungar said demand remained hard to predict as prices rise and the economy slows.

“We’re in two different types of uncertainty,” she said. “There was the pandemic uncertainty, and then there’s the economic uncertainty right now.”

In response, Ms. Ungar has shifted her focus to higher-end tours, which she believes will hold up better than those aimed at more price-sensitive customers. And she is trying to avoid long-term commitments that could be difficult to get out of if demand cools.

“Every annual plan I’ve done in the past three years has not happened that way,” she said. “It’s really important to recognize that what worked yesterday isn’t going to work tomorrow.”

Lydia DePillis contributed reporting.

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Producers of fries refusing to supply to Russia, McDonald’s successor says

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  • This content was produced in Russia, where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine.

MOSCOW, July 15 (Reuters) – The head of the company now running the former McDonald’s Corp chain of restaurants in Russia told RBC TV that producers of French fries are refusing to supply to the country and warned that attempts to increase domestic processing are fraught with difficulties.

McDonald’s quit Russia after a Western backlash against Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine, which included a barrage of economic sanctions, and sold all the restaurants it owned to a local licensee in May.

Restaurants began opening under the new name Vkusno & tochka, or “Tasty and that’s it”, on June 12. CEO Oleg Paroev told Reuters the chain had sold almost 120,000 burgers on opening day.

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The new ownership was keen to stress that high quality standards would be maintained or even bettered, and that consumers would not notice much difference. It has since been forced to admit that it is facing a shortage of French fries until autumn, blaming a poor harvest in Russia and supply chain woes. read more

“What has happened now is that due to well known events many foreign companies, I would even say all major producers of fries, have refused to deliver this product to Russia,” Paroev told RBC TV, a business channel, late on Thursday.

Paroev said that factories in both “friendly” and “unfriendly” countries that produce fries belong to five or six major companies, whose headquarters are based in unfriendly nations and which have therefore refused to supply to Russia.

Moscow deems countries that have imposed sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine as “unfriendly”.

Paroev said there was a shortage in Russia’s harvest this year of the specific potatoes needed for French fries and that other issues could arise, with only a few enterprises capable of processing potatoes for French fries in Russia.

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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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China’s Surveillance State Encounters Public Resistance

Chinese artists have staged performances to highlight the ubiquity of surveillance cameras. Privacy activists have filed lawsuits against the collection of facial recognition data. Ordinary citizens and establishment intellectuals alike have pushed back against the abuse of Covid tracking apps by the authorities to curb protests. Internet users have shared tips on how to evade digital monitoring.

As China builds up its vast surveillance and security apparatus, it is running up against growing public unease about the lack of safeguards to prevent the theft or misuse of personal data. The ruling Communist Party is keenly aware of the cost to its credibility of any major security lapses: Last week, it moved systematically to squelch news about what was probably the largest known breach of a Chinese government computer system, involving the personal information of as many as one billion citizens.

The breach dealt a blow to Beijing, exposing the risks of its expansive efforts to vacuum up enormous amounts of digital and biological information on the daily activities and social connections of its people from social media posts, biometric data, phone records and surveillance videos. The government says these efforts are necessary for public safety: to limit the spread of Covid, for instance, or to catch criminals. But its failure to protect the data exposes citizens to problems like fraud and extortion, and threatens to erode people’s willingness to comply with surveillance.

for mishandling data. But the authorities rarely point fingers at the country’s other top collector of personal information: the government itself.

Security researchers say the leaked database, apparently used by the police in Shanghai, had been left online and unsecured for months. It was exposed after an anonymous user posted in an online forum offering to sell the vast trove of data for 10 Bitcoin, or about $200,000. The New York Times confirmed parts of a sample of the database released by the anonymous user, who posted under the name ChinaDan.

In addition to basic information like names, addresses and ID numbers, the sample featured details that appeared to be drawn from external databases, like instructions for couriers on where to drop off deliveries, raising questions about how much information private companies share with the authorities. Of particular concern for many, it also contained intensely personal information, such as police reports that included the names of people accused of rape and domestic violence, as well as private information about political dissidents.

leaked databases used by the police in China that were left online with little to no protection; some contained facial recognition records and ID scans of people in a Muslim ethnic minority region.

Now, there are signs that people are growing wary of the government and public institutions, too, as they see how their own data is being used against them. Last month, a nationwide outcry erupted over the apparent abuse of Covid-19 tracking technology by local authorities.

Protesters fighting to recover their savings from four rural banks in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou found that the mobile apps used to identify and isolate people who might be spreading Covid had turned from green — meaning safe — to red, a designation that would prevent them from moving freely.

“There is no privacy in China,” said Silvia Si, 30, a protester whose health code had turned red. The authorities in Zhengzhou, under pressure to account for the episode, later punished five officials for changing the codes of more than 1,300 customers.

posted on Weibo that he was refusing to wear an electronic bracelet to track his movements while in isolation, saying the device was an “electronic shackle” and an infringement on his privacy. The post was liked around 60,000 times, and users flooded it with responses. Many said the bracelet reminded them of the treatment of criminals; others called it a ploy to surreptitiously collect personal information. The post was later taken down by censors, the blogger said.

researcher on technology policy at Yale Law School and New America. “People are far more trusting overall in how government entities handle their personal information and far more suspicious about the corporate sector.”

Legal analysts said any disciplinary actions resulting from the Shanghai police database breach were unlikely to be publicized. There are few mechanisms in place to hold Chinese government agencies responsible for their own data leaks. For many citizens, that lack of recourse has contributed to a sense of resignation.

Occasionally, though, they notch small victories, as Xu Peilin did when she took on her neighborhood committee last year. She had returned to her apartment building in Beijing one day to find that the compound wanted residents to submit to a facial recognition scanner to enter.

“It was insane,” said Ms. Xu, 37, a project manager at a start-up company. She said it reminded her of one of her favorite television shows, the British science fiction series “Black Mirror.”

Ms. Xu badgered her neighborhood committee by telephone and text message until it relented. For now, Ms. Xu said, she can still enter her compound using her key card, though she believed it was only a matter of time until the facial recognition devices became mandatory again.

“All I can do for now,” she said, “is continue to resist on a small scale.”

Zixu Wang contributed reporting.

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High Inflation in June Puts Pressure on Interest Rates

Prices surged 9.1 percent in June as consumers faced rapidly rising costs for gas, food and rent, a higher-than-expected reading and bad news for Americans at a moment when their wages are falling further behind the nation’s soaring cost of living.

The fresh Consumer Price Index report released on Wednesday contained particularly worrying signs for the Federal Reserve, providing evidence that price pressures are broad and stubborn in ways that may make them difficult to wrestle under control.

Overall, inflation is likely to moderate in July because gas prices have fallen this month — a gallon of regular gas hit an average of about $5 in June, and the cost is now hovering around $4.63. But fuel prices are volatile, making it impossible to know if today’s lower gas prices will last, and the report suggested that underlying inflation pressures remained intense.

raising interest rates since March in an effort to slow consumer and business demand, hoping to cool the economy and bring inflation back down. The central bank has sped up those rate moves as price increases have proved surprisingly stubborn, and the new inflation report spurred speculation that the Fed might turn even more aggressive.

Officials lifted rates by 0.75 percentage points in June, the biggest move since 1994, and had been expected to make a similarly sized move at its meeting in late July. But after the new inflation data, investors began to expect a percentage-point move, based on market pricing.

Fed officials themselves were hesitant to call for such a large move.

“My most likely posture is 0.75, because of the data I’ve seen,” Mary Daly, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said in an interview Wednesday night. She explained that she had expected a high number, so the report did not sway her.

“I saw that data and thought: This wasn’t good news, wasn’t expecting good news,” she said.

Ms. Daly said she could see a situation in which a bigger, one-percentage-point increase would be possible should consumer inflation expectations move higher and consumer spending fail to slow down.

Loretta Mester, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, said on Bloomberg Television on Wednesday night that the new inflation report was “uniformly bad” and that there would be no reason to do less than the 0.75 points that the Fed approved in June. But she also suggested that she would watch incoming data and wait to see how the economy evolved before deciding whether an even larger move might be appropriate. The Fed’s next policy meeting is July 26-27.

Raphael Bostic, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, told reporters on Wednesday that “everything is in play,” but he, too, made it clear that he was “not wedded to any specific course of action.”

tipping the economy into a recession as it rapidly raises interest rates, because those increases might hit the brakes on the economy so hard that they jar businesses, prompting them to stop hiring and setting off a chain reaction in which households are left with less money to spend.

Stores including Target are already trying to sell off bloated inventories, which could allow retail prices to slow. Costs for goods including sporting equipment and televisions have already begun to cool.

But, for now, hints at and forecasts for a cool-down are likely to be insufficient comfort for economic policymakers when there is little sign in the data that any concerted pullback is kicking in.

“We have to be so humble about forecasting inflation,” said Blerina Uruci, an economist at T. Rowe Price, who does expect inflation pressures to fade. “We’ve just been so wrong, so consistently, in one direction.”

Reporting was contributed by Isabella Simonetti, Jim Tankersley, Emily Cochrane, Ana Swanson and Joe Rennison.

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