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The European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt. ECB officials know only too well that weaning financial markets off emergency stimulus is a fraught task. Image Credit: AP

Frankfurt: Europe's late but accelerating vaccination push is allowing monetary officials to begin pondering an economic future free of the curse of the coronavirus.

While European Central Bank policy makers will reiterate existing emergency stimulus settings with a horizon of March 2022 when they meet by video this week, the step-up in immunizations across the region has emboldened some of them to start a public discussion on what might happen when the pandemic no longer menaces the euro region.

There's a spectrum of views on that outlook. Dutch central bank Governor Klaas Knot favors tapering crisis bond purchases as soon as the third quarter, while his French colleague, Francois Villeroy de Galhau, cites March as a possible end date. President Christine Lagarde reckons monetary support will be needed "well into the recovery."

ECB officials know only too well that weaning financial markets off emergency stimulus is a fraught task. For now, they have the comfort of knowing that they still have time before any winding down of stimulus needs to begin, and in the meantime they can look across the Atlantic for a guide to the pitfalls.

The Bank of Canada has already hinted that it might be one of the first Group of Seven institutions to start paring back monetary policy support. At the central bank's next decision on Wednesday, officials may announce slower bond purchases, a policy shift that their counterparts in Frankfurt can only dream of for now.

"The ECB will no longer have to fret about rising government borrowing costs when it meets on April 22. A full assessment of the pace of asset purchases will not happen until June, but the tone of this week's press conference may offer some hints on the debate to come. The hawks are likely to focus on the successful containment of bond yields and the economic recovery, while the doves will be more cautious." David Powell, senior euro-area economist at Bloomberg.

Elsewhere, central bankers in Russia, Israel and Indonesia also hold rate decisions and China follows up record-breaking GDP data with its high-profile Boao forum.

US and Canada

In the US, investors will be watching for the latest reading of weekly jobless claims - after they dropped to a new pandemic low - to gauge whether upside momentum in the labor market is holding. Reports on manufacturing, services, new and existing homes sales are also due out.

Officials at the Federal Reserve are in blackout ahead of their next policy meeting on April 27-28.

If the Canadian central bank's decision on Wednesday proceeds to detail next steps to pare bond purchases, such a roadmap would set policy apart from the neighboring U.S., where the Fed isn't expected to attempt a so-called taper until next year.

The BOC has been buying a minimum of C$4 billion ($3.2 billion) in government bonds each week, accumulating more than C$250 billion over the past year. That pace is likely no longer warranted with an outlook that appears to improving dramatically by the week, helped by a recovery in commodity prices and a robust housing market.

Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will make a pitch for tens of billions in additional spending to support the recovery.


China is signaling it's open for business with the resumption of its high-profile Boao forum, where key leaders, senior government officials and business executives will discuss the economy's outlook in a post-pandemic world. Among likely speakers are PBOC's Governor Yi Gang, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, Apple's Tim Cook, Tesla's Elon Musk and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink.

Japanese export figures will offer an indication of how firmly world demand is recovering as the pandemic grinds on. Early April figures for South Korea will provide an even more up-to-date snapshot of the health of global trade, as will Taiwan export orders for March.

Japan inflation numbers are still likely to show falling prices ahead of a Bank of Japan meeting the following week that is set to show inflation failing to reach 2% during Haruhiko Kuroda's stint as governor.

Indonesia is set to keep interest rates steady at Tuesday's meeting.

Europe, Middle East, Africa

Initial data on economic activity in April will likely show the U.K.'s dominant services industry has rebounded strongly as larger parts of the economy reopened. The same can't be said about activity in major euro-zone economies reeling under renewed restrictions.

UK inflation, meanwhile, probably stayed well below the Bank of England's target in the previous month.

Israel is expected to keep rates on hold at 0.1% on Monday as the central bank helps steer the world's most-vaccinated economy out of lockdown. The central bank chief said the low long-term interest-rate policy will continue as long as there isn't an unexpected inflationary surge, and the primary goal is to return to growth.

Data on Wednesday will probably show that Ghana's economy grew 1.3% in the fourth quarter after the country eased pandemic restrictions. In South Africa, inflation is forecast to accelerate to 3.3%, back within the lower bound of central bank's target range.