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China’s National People’s Congress gets underway this weekend, and investors will get an update on the health of the US labour market.

Here’s what to watch in the coming days.

China

Li Keqiang, China’s premier, delivers the country’s proposed economic targets on Sunday at the opening of the fifth session of the 12th National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislature.

While much of the discussion takes place in closed-door meetings, economists are paying attention to the Government Work Report and the 2017 growth target. Jian Chang, economist at Barclays, said their base case is for 6.5 per cent growth. He also expects the government to maintain the budget deficit at 3 per cent and inflation target at 3 per cent.

On the politics front, China-watchers will keep their eyes peeled for clues on who could make it to China’s 25-member Politburo and possibly the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), following a reshuffle of some senior provincial and central government leaders, particularly with the 19th Party Congress scheduled for this fall.

UK budget

UK chancellor Philip Hammond will present his first budget on Wednesday, and economists expect it to show a decline in gilt issuance.

“The UK economy has outperformed earlier forecasts, and so there should be a bit more revenue to play with, leading to the first decline in borrowing in 3 years,” strategists at TD Securities said. “But we see a cautious budget with few giveaways as the UK approaches Brexit.”

European Central Bank

Even as investors prepare for the US central bank to tighten monetary policy, the ECB is expected to leave rates unchanged when it meets on Thursday.

“The focus instead is likely to be on possible changes in language, with a number of voices since the last meeting calling for a change to the ECB’s forward guidance,” said economists at RBC Capital Markets. “An updated set of staff macroeconomic projections, which are likely to see an upward revision to inflation estimates in particular, will add weight to those calls.”

US jobs

The key US event comes at the end of the week as investors look to see whether Friday’s US jobs report will cement the Fed’s case for raising rates, on the heels of hawkish remarks from chair Janet Yellen and a handful of other Fed officials, alongside a string of upbeat economic data.

The report, which comes during the central bank’s communications blackout period, is expected to show the US economy added 190,000 jobs last month, compared with the 227,000 jobs added in January. They also expect the unemployment rate to slip to 4.7 per cent, from 4.8 per cent previously.

But even if payrolls turn up light, Tom Porcelli, economist at RBC Capital Markets, argues that “wages will be the lynchpin to whether the Fed ‘likes’ this report enough to vindicate hiking in March”. Economists expect that wages will have improved.

Average hourly earnings are projected to rise 0.3 per cent in February from the previous month, when they climbed 0.1 per cent. That would leave earnings up 2.8 per cent from a year ago, compared with 2.5 per cent in January. And an uptick in wage inflation would certainly help strengthen the case for a March move, as the Fed’s preferred inflation measure is near the central bank’s 2 per cent target.

With Fed fund futures currently pointing to a 96 per cent chance that the central bank lifts rates in two weeks, a better-than-expected jobs report could bolster those odds further.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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