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United States

Wage-Price Spiral Unlikely in U.S. Even as Pay, Prices Soar

The U.S. economy is likely to avoid a 1970s-style wage-price spiral even as wages and inflation are rising at their highest rates in roughly 40 years.

"For a wage-price spiral to settle in, you need people to believe that inflation is going to increase indefinitely," said Gregory Daco, chief economist at consultancy EY-Parthenon. "We're not seeing that."

A wage-price spiral occurs when consumers expect higher prices to remain in place so they begin to demand higher wages to match. Businesses, in order to hire new employees and retain existing ones, have to comply, so they raise pay and pass on those higher labor costs to consumers through higher prices. Higher prices lead to higher wages, and as the spiral continues, economic conditions worsen.

Recent gains in pay and surging consumer prices have drawn comparisons to the high inflation and surging wages of the 1970s. At the time, wages and inflation accelerated to historic levels, leading the Federal Reserve to hike its federal funds rate to over 19%, an all-time high that contributed to two recessions in the early 1980s.

Still, there are signs that current conditions will not last. Consumers expect inflation will ease in the coming months, while markets expect the Federal Reserve's long-awaited rate hikes, which will raise borrowing costs and curb demand, are just around the corner.

A wage-price spiral remains a possibility, Daco said, but inflation and wage growth would need to accelerate and they currently look to be stabilizing.

Fed Rate Hike Anticipation Pushes Investors into Value Stocks Over Growth

Investors are jumping from tech-heavy growth stocks into companies offering better, more immediate value in anticipation of interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve this year.

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February U.S. and Canada Summary Report: Leveraged Finance

The tilt toward positive rating actions continues in 2022 as upgrades have continued to outpace downgrades in the speculative-grade category.

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How Inflation Has Mixed Effects On U.S. State And Local Government Credit Quality

Inflation has jumped this year, with the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) reaching 7.0% over the last 12 months as of December 2021, a 40-year high.

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Fed's Inflation Conundrum Brightens Outlook for U.S. Community Banks

U.S. community bank margins are poised to rebound in 2022 as the Federal Reserve works to combat inflationary pressures but the expansion will not offer a material lift to earnings until 2023.


U.S. Dollar Rally Set to Continue as Fed Readies Rate Hikes

The U.S. dollar has surged to its highest level since July 2020 compared to other currencies on rate hike expectations, a rally that analysts believe will continue to run with the Federal Reserve's push to tighten monetary policy.


Economic Research: U.S. Real-Time Data: High Prices Dampen Economic Activity and Moods

The U.S. economy continues to decelerate in January as omicron slows economic activity and inflation takes a bite out of purchasing power.

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With U.S. inflation at the highest level in four decades, what will the year ahead look like for global markets against a backdrop of evolving monetary policy and the continuing pandemic?



Inflation Keeps Growing; Revlon, Volkswagen Take on Supply Chain Challenges

Shipping rates out of China have likely provided some relief to shippers, even if still elevated. Based on the Shanghai Shipping Exchange's China Containerized Freight Index, rates out of China fell 5.6% since the week of Feb. 11. This represents a rise of 1.3% from the start of 2022 but could indicate a slowdown in rate growth. Rates to the U.S. West Coast and Europe followed this trend, declining 6.1% and 5.6%, respectively, since mid-February, but still remaining up 6.4% and 8.1% since the beginning of the year.

Supply Chain, Inflation Top Subjects of Q4'21 Earnings Calls

Inflation and supply chains are topics of increasing attention, from both central banks and companies, as expectations move away from the thought that rising prices would be transitory.

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Global Credit Conditions Special Update: Geopolitical, Inflation, and Rate Risks Rise

Downside risks to global credit conditions are escalating—in particular, geopolitical tensions, persistent inflation, and the promise of higher borrowing costs.

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Global Sovereign Rating Trends 2022: Despite Stabilization, the Pandemic Threatens the Recovery

The evolution of the pandemic continues to be the main risk for sovereign ratings. A more fragile social context and political polarization will limit governments' capacity to implement revenue and spending rebalancing measures.

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Asia-Pacific Sovereign Rating Trends 2022: New COVID Strain Thwarts an Earlier Recovery

Asia-Pacific sovereign ratings are demonstrating resilience amid health crises, disrupted supply chains, geopolitical strains, and weak economies. S&P Global Ratings expects most of the ratings to remain unchanged over the next one to two years, even as COVID-19 continues to weigh on government and corporate balance sheets.

Australia's Biggest Bank Need Not Worry About Margin Drop as Growth Stays Intact

Commonwealth Bank of Australia expects its margins to remain pressured amid record-low interest rates even as cash profit rose 23% year over year in the six months ended Dec. 31, 2021.

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China May Cut Interest Rates Further to Revive Slowing Loan Growth

China is likely to cut borrowing costs further as its measured pace of easing has yet to revive bank lending and economic growth, analysts say.



Economic Research: The ECB Opens the Door to a Rate Liftoff

The ECB could start preparing markets for monetary policy normalization as soon as March. This will depend on the set of new forecasts it receives ahead of its next meeting on energy prices, the euro exchange rate, and wage developments.

Before it raises rates, the ECB will have to phase out net asset purchases under the PEPP and APP. Given the ECB's current timelines, net purchases are unlikely to go to zero before September 2022. That would pave the way for a potential first rate hike in December 2022.

Balance sheet normalization will take time. S&P Global Ratings still expects the ECB to reinvest its PEPP holdings until the end of 2024, and the APP reinvestments could likely last longer than that. Given that the average duration of the ECB's bond portfolio is seven years, passive balance-sheet normalization could continue until 2031.

More Upbeat Inflation And GDP Developments Point To Earlier Monetary Policy Tightening

Last Thursday, the European Central Bank (ECB) opened the door to an earlier monetary policy normalization than it had foreseen last December. Inflation--already elevated because of energy prices—has clearly surprised on the upside in the past two months, while GDP recovered to pre-pandemic levels in Q4 2021, and the unemployment rate is back to its lowest on records. The ECB has acknowledged that the economic effects of the pandemic are continuing to diminish, so that the economy may reach full potential earlier than it previously expected. This may translate into higher prices more quickly than thought. With risks to price forecasts now on the upside, the ECB has given to understand that it is now unlikely to wait until 2024 to raise rates. S&P Global Ratings believes that this could lead the central bank to bring its rate normalization forward to the final quarter of 2022.

Turkey Macroeconomic Update: Higher Inflation, Uncertain Growth Path

Turkey has seen a series of economic policy developments over the last few weeks, including a large hike in the minimum wage and the introduction of a forex-protected Turkish lira deposit scheme.

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European Developed Sovereign Rating Trends 2022: Recovery Depends on Reform

The 23 stable outlooks in the developed European rated universe indicate ratings that are not likely to change in 2022.

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EMEA Emerging Markets Sovereign Rating Trends 2022: Stable Overall But Fiscal, External, and Geopolitical Risks Predominate

As we enter the new year, sovereign rating trends in emerging markets EMEA look to be stabilizing (albeit with a balance of negative outlooks).


Europe's Banks Urged to Wait and See Before Cutting Loan Loss Reserves

The European Central Bank is warning banks against the early release of loan loss provisions and wants to ensure the assumptions behind existing provisions prove accurate ahead of further releases.


Economic Research: Where is the Wage Inflation? Not In Europe

Wage growth will not outpace productivity next year in the eurozone, and therefore will not exert inflationary pressure soon.

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Capital Markets

Credit Trends: Global Financing Conditions: Bond Issuance Looks Set to Contract 2% This Year as Monetary Policy Tightens

S&P Global Ratings Research expects global bond issuance to contract about 2% in 2022. The global bond issuance total surprised to the upside in 2021, edging out 2020's breakthrough growth to finish at $9 trillion. A particularly strong fourth quarter led to the 5.6% annual surge, after the year-to-date total fell just over 1% short of 2020's through September.

For 2022, fears have grown that the Federal Reserve could move too quickly, aggressively, or unpredictably in its fight with inflation over the coming months, potentially stymieing growth and earnings and exporting tighter monetary policy abroad. This is the key item markets appear to be watching, but our base-case assumption that interest rates will rise this year without becoming restrictive remains intact at this point.

However, risks have grown in the past three months. Other headwinds are still blowing, including still-high cash balances among larger firms, China's deleveraging policies, difficult comparisons with 2021 totals, and the return to trend economic growth. Geopolitical risks have also grown, and several key elections globally this year could bring more unpredictability.

When Rates Rise: Tighter Monetary Policy Will Provide a Lift to U.S. Banks

The Federal Reserve's impending tightening of monetary policy could significantly benefit U.S. banks.


Big U.S. Banks Bulk Up on Bonds, Cut Cash as Rates Rise

Banks took advantage of rising yields to grow their bond holdings in the 2021 fourth quarter, a trend that has continued into 2022 as long-term rates have moved higher still.


Private Equity Managers Expect Another Boom Year in 2022

Private equity deal-making and fundraising is expected to continue apace in 2022, although midmarket managers in both the U.S. and Europe are mindful of high valuations and inflationary pressures as they deploy record amounts of cash.


Czech Banks Bullish on 2022 Performance Amid Rising Interest Rates

Czech lenders are optimistic of another strong year in 2022, even as central bank rate hikes put a dampener on the record demand for mortgages seen in 2021.



Metals Prices May Rally Further if Russia-Ukraine Tensions Impact Supply

Base metals rallied in the week starting Jan. 17 against a backdrop of rising Russia-Ukraine border tensions, higher inflation in major economies and market tightness.

Copper Above $10,000 First Time in Three Months Amid Multiple Factors

Copper prices vaulted over the $10,000/mt mark in trading Jan. 12 for the first time since October, as a result of multiple factors, market analysts said.


Oil & Gas

Biden White House Again Under Pressure as Oil Prices Race Toward $90/b

The White House once again faces few options to respond to high oil prices as they race toward $90/b just two months after the Biden administration tapped emergency crude stocks.

Analysts expect the administration to consider the usual grab bag of policies and rhetoric that get brought out when domestic fuel prices rise.

Those include urging U.S. and OPEC drillers to pump more, tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve again, promoting anti-OPEC legislation in Congress, pushing the Federal Trade Commission to keep probing price gouging, and potentially bringing back talk of U.S. crude export restrictions.

Energy prices are the largest driver of inflation, which is testing President Joe Biden ahead of the tightly contested November mid-term elections that will determine control of Congress.

Crude prices have surged in recent weeks for a number of reasons related to geopolitical tensions, robust demand despite omicron outbreaks, uncertainty over OPEC spare capacity and an apparent lack of progress on restarting the Iran nuclear deal.

"The resulting pass-through to fuel prices doesn't merely risk economic slowdown and voter frustration," said Kevin Book, managing director of ClearView Energy Partners, in a Jan. 19 note. "It also can create headwinds to the White House green agenda: a President who campaigned on ending federal oil and gas leasing has continued to tread relatively lightly."

SPR savings erased

Biden took historic action Nov. 23 in ordering an SPR drawdown of 50 million barrels to bring down prices, something that had previously been reserved for physical supply disruptions. The Department of Energy has takers for a little over half of the barrels so far.

WTI crude futures dropped about $12/b in the week after the SPR announcement, but analysts saw omicron fears as the bigger driver in that price decline. WTI surpassed late November levels on Jan. 6, climbing nearly $7/b higher than when DOE announced the drawdown.

Crude Oil Futures Prices Fall Amid Hot U.S. Inflation Report, Biden Remarks

Crude oil futures fell in midmorning trade in Asia Feb. 11, tracking the broader financial markets lower following a volatile overnight session that saw prices pressured by a hot inflation report and remarks from U.S. President Joe Biden pledging to curb high energy prices.


U.S. FERC Cuts Oil Pipeline Index for 2022-26 as Inflation Soars

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Jan. 20 slashed the index that oil pipelines must use to set shipping rates for the next five years to a level that Chairman Richard Glick estimated would save customers $3.7 billion through 2026.


High Natural Gas Prices Could Lead to Spike in Food Costs Through Fertilizer Link

Global fertilizer prices soared to multi-year highs in the past few months following surge in prices of key feedstocks natural gas and coal, and certain export restrictions put in place by supplying countries.


OPEC Doesn't Expect Oil Market Recovery to be Derailed by Central Banks' Inflation Fight

OPEC warned Jan. 18 of a choppy oil market ahead, between lingering COVID-19 hotspots, surging inflation and ongoing supply chain disruptions, but said the continued emergence of the world economy from the pandemic in 2022 should keep crude prices supported throughout the year.


U.S. Rockies Gas Production to Continue Decline in 2022 as Companies Await Higher Prices

Operators in the US Rocky Mountain region said natural gas prices must maintain an average of more than $4/MMBtu before any significant ramp-up in production occurs, according to the latest survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.