Marketmind: Omicron and payrolls (TGIF)

A look at the day ahead from Sujata Rao.

Today's non-farm payrolls, a reliable monthly snapshot of the U.S. employment picture, almost comes as an anti-climax. A more timely indicator, weekly jobless benefits rolls released on Thursday, showed a sub-2 million figure for the first time since last March and layoffs at three-decade lows.

Alongside robust consumer and manufacturing data, it indicates the Federal Reserve will likely accelerate the pace of unwinding bond purchases, as its boss Jerome Powell has suggested.

It's also already being priced by bond markets; the gap between two- and 10-year Treasury yields has narrowed the most since June this week.

Payrolls do have the capacity to surprise; a number shockingly below the 550,000 estimated by a Reuters poll of economists, would likely cause turmoil. Especially as the data won't reflect disruptions from the latest Omicron variant of COVID.

Omicron remains a source of volatility mostly everywhere; German 10-year yields dropped at the open and are heading back to the three-month lows touched on Thursday after Europe's biggest economy expanded COVID curbs. And China's services sector, vulnerable to COVID outbreaks and containment measures, stumbled in November, PMIs showed.

Asia has specific worries of its own, not least over U.S.-China ties. Hong Kong tech shares dropped to a two-month low after news of China's Didi shifting its listing from New York to Hong Kong, while fellow Asian ride-hailing app Grab fell 20% on its Nasdaq debut.

Finally don't forget Chinese property problems, with deeveloper Kaisa risking an imminent default.

In any case, the mood may be perking up. Thursday's Wall Street bounce gave way to a weak Asian session but European equities have opened firmer.

Graphic: Payrolls, Key developments that should provide more direction to markets on Friday:

-U.S. FTC sues to block Nvidia deal to buy Arm

-ECB speakers: President Lagarde, chief economist Philip Lane

-Final services PMIs everywhere

-U.S non farm payrolls

-Emerging markets: Turkey CPI

-Fitch to review Italy credit rating

(Reporting by Sujata Rao; editing by Dhara Ranasinghe)

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