Nafta Talks, China Congress and the February Jobs Report

Here’s what to expect in the week ahead:

ECONOMY

A seventh round of talks over the North American Free Trade Agreement are scheduled to wrap up on Monday in Mexico City. Negotiators from the United States, Canada and Mexico have made headway on some of the less controversial parts of the pact, such as regulatory practices. But they remain divided on more difficult issues, including rules for the auto industry. Given that impasse, the talks appear likely to drag on. The countries have discussed reconvening in early April in Washington D.C., meaning they probably will not reach a deal before March 31, as they previously discussed. Ana Swanson

MARKETS

Anxieties in the stock market re-emerged last week, after President Trump’s promise on Thursday that he would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. But at the same time, the slip in the stock market boosted prices for safe bonds, keeping a lid on yields. Those rising yields had spooked the stock market in early February, when data showed wages rising at a faster-than-expected pace. Another jobs report is coming out this week, and it may show whether those wage pressures continued to build in February. That could reignite fears of inflation and a quickening pace of rate increases by the Federal Reserve, providing another reason for stocks to fall. Matt Phillips

OIL INDUSTRY

On Monday, two of the world’s largest oil companies, Royal Dutch Shell and Eni of Italy, are expected to go on trial in Milan on corruption charges over a $1.3 billion oil deal in Nigeria. The defendants include current and former oil executives, among them Claudio Descalzi, Eni’s chief executive. The case stems from a long-running investigation by Italian prosecutors into a payment the companies made to the Nigerian government in 2011 to settle a legal dispute over a potentially lucrative tract in the Atlantic Ocean known as OPL 245. Both companies deny wrongdoing, but having such senior or former top executives facing trial is unusual. The trial is expected to take months. Stanley Reed

GOVERNMENT

China’s National People’s Congress, the country’s legislature, will begin meeting on Monday for its annual session to review and approve a long list of government initiatives. Premier Li Keqiang, the country’s second-highest official after President Xi Jinping, is expected to open the gathering by giving his annual work report. The meeting is expected to last at least through March 15 and possibly longer.

Economists expect that Mr. Li will call for continued economic growth of about 6.5 percent. Considerable uncertainty surrounds when and how the government may restructure financial regulation, and the latest hints have been that the issue may be delayed.

Under President Xi, who has been in office for five years and has consolidated enormous personal power, the nearly 3,000 members of the body have become increasingly cautious about expressing their own views. Keith Bradsher

OIL INDUSTRY

Global energy ministers and energy company chief executives will gather in Houston all week at IHS Markit’s annual Ceraweek conference to take the pulse of an industry that has hit rocky times of low oil and gas prices in recent years. Subjects will range from the future of liquefied natural gas to the economics of renewable energy and coal. Many industry leaders are expected to meet behind closed doors to negotiate deals around the world. Clifford Krauss

ECONOMY

The European Central Bank will release its latest monetary policy decision on Thursday, to be followed by a news conference by Mario Draghi, the central bank’s president. The bank’s Governing Council is widely expected to keep its key interest rate steady at zero percent, where it has been since March 2016.

Inflation in the eurozone declined to 1.2 percent in February, from 1.3 percent in January, according to the latest data from Eurostat, the European Union’s official statistics bureau. That is the lowest level in more than a year. But the European Central Bank is expected to remain cautious about whether it would extend a bond-buying program, known as “quantitative easing,” beyond September. The bank has indicated it would extend the program if necessary and could update its guidance for the future as soon as next week. Chad Bray

On Friday, at 8:30 a.m., the Labor Department is scheduled to release its report on the nation’s hiring and unemployment for February. Wall Street analysts are looking for another strong month of growth with payrolls expanding by 200,000. After sitting on the 4.1 percent line for four months, the unemployment rate is expected to tick down to 4 percent, a level last reached in 2000. The consensus forecast estimates the average hourly wage will climb by 0.2 percent, which would knock down the annual year-over-year increase to 2.8 percent from 2.9 percent in January. The combination of a low jobless rate and low inflation prompted the new chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, Jerome H. Powell, to tell Congress last week that the Fed’s approach to raising interest rates would continue to be “gradual.” The first increase is expected to come at the central bank’s March policy meeting. Patricia Cohen

Content originally published on https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/04/business/nafta-china-congress-jobs-report.html by THE NEW YORK TIMES