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The Fed is in early stages of prepping markets for tapering asset purchases

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Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell listens during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on “The Quarterly CARES Act Report to Congress” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2020.

Susan Walsh | Reuters

The Federal Reserve is in the early stages of a campaign to ready markets for reducing its $120 billion in monthly asset purchases to stimulate the economy.

Comments by Fed officials in the past several weeks suggest the issue of tapering looks likely to be discussed as soon as next week’s meeting, and the Fed may be on track to begin asset reductions later this year or early next year.

At least five Fed officials have publicly commented on the likelihood of those discussions in recent weeks, including Patrick Harker, president of the of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Robert Kaplan of Dallas, Fed Vice Chair for bank supervision Randal Quarles and Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester, whose comments to CNBC came after Friday’s monthly jobs report.

“As the economy continues to improve, and we see it in the data, and we get closer to our goals … we’re going to have discussions about our stance of policy overall, including our asset purchase programs and including our interest rates,” Mester said Friday.

While the discussion may take place, an announcement of a decision to actually taper would be several months later, perhaps in late summer or early fall. That announcement would then put the beginning of the asset reduction further out, perhaps by year-end or early next year. Since the Fed will taper its purchases, that is, reduce the amount it buys by some amount each month, that timeline would still see the Fed purchasing billions of dollars of assets well into 2022, though at an increasingly slower pace.

All of that is contingent on how the economy rebounds from the pandemic. The recent pace of new job growth, averaging 541,000 payrolls over the past three months, and the recent decline in the unemployment rate look to be more or less in line with Fed expectations. Most Fed officials continue to believe that the recent spurt of inflation will prove temporary, so even big monthly gains are unlikely to speed up the plan, at least for a time.

Avoiding a tantrum

While the decision to taper is based on economic data, it eventually will be converted by Fed officials to calendar dates, though, as the Fed has done in the past, still linked to the data.

Behind the glacial pace of reducing asset purchases is a deliberate attempt to avoid another so-called taper tantrum, the sharp spike in bond yields in 2013 that came after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke hinted asset purchases could wind down.

One view inside the Fed is that the taper tantrum occurred because it failed to adequately separate in the market’s mind the timelines for hiking interest rates and for reducing asset purchases. This time, the Fed is creating a long runway for tapering, making clear that rate increases only come after this process. It also has set a higher standard of economic improvement required for rate increases than it has for asset purchase reductions.

Quarles late last month made that separation clear, saying: “It will become important for the FOMC to begin discussing our plans to adjust the pace of asset purchases at upcoming meetings.” But, he added,  “in contrast, the time for discussing a change in the federal funds rate remains far in the future.”

At the moment, fixed income markets appear to be giving the Fed leeway to follow a gradual timeline. The 10-year note yield has been anchored around 1.60 percent for nearly four months, and the 2-year note rate has hovered around 15 basis points (0.15%). Fed Funds futures do not fully price in a 25-basis point rate hike from the Fed until early 2023.

Fed officials expected volatility around any announcement that it will reduce asset purchases. And it’s clear yields could rise as a result. It’s possible markets may become more aggressive in pricing in rate hikes. The measure of success for the Fed’s current efforts will come if policymakers can move toward reducing asset purchases but see only modest changes in expectations for rate increases.

The key risk now is that the Fed, in trying to avoid a taper tantrum, maintains easy monetary policy too long, allowing inflation to become a permanent, rather than temporary, problem.

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How much athletes from 12 countries earn for winning medals

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Hidilyn Diaz of Team Philippines competes during the Weightlifting – Women’s 55kg Group A on day three of the 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo International Forum on July 26, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

Chris Graythen | Getty Images

Why some athletes earn more

More than 600 U.S. athletes are competing at the Tokyo Olympics, and the United States has so far won 11 gold, 11 silver and 9 bronze.

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee rewards athletes $37,500 for every gold medal won, $22,500 for silver and $15,000 for bronze. Most of that prize money is not taxable unless athletes report gross income that exceeds $1 million.

U.S. athletes also receive other forms of support including health insurance, access to top-tier medical facilities and college tuition assistance.

In comparison, Singapore rewards its gold medalists nearly 20 times more than the U.S. Players who clinch their first individual gold medal for the city-state stand to receive 1 million Singapore dollars ($737,000). The prize money is taxable and awardees are required to return a portion of it to their national sports associations for future training and development.

The country sent only 23 athletes to Tokyo.

The sporting economy in the U.S. allows athletes to better monetize their talents as most of it is driven by the private sector, according to Unmish Parthasarathi, founder and executive director at consulting firm Picture Board Partners.

In places like Singapore, India and elsewhere, many of the national sporting initiatives are driven by governments that sometimes use higher monetary rewards to encourage a growing sporting culture, he told CNBC.

Malaysia also has hefty rewards for its Olympic winners.

Athletes who win gold receive 1 million ringgit ($236,149), while silver winners are awarded 300,000 ringgit, and 100,000 ringgit is given to athletes who win bronze. In dollar terms, a Malaysian Olympic bronze winner will receive a higher performance reward than a gold winner from Australia or Canada.

How athletes make money

Beyond receiving monetary and non-monetary rewards from their countries for winning medals, Olympians rely on other revenue streams for their sporting endeavors.

Athletes from bigger, more competitive countries receive stipends or training grants from their national sports associations. Top performers collect prize money by winning national and international tournaments. Others draw regular salary by holding a variety of jobs.

Some, like U.S. badminton player Zhang Beiwen, reportedly relied on crowdsourcing to finance their trip to Tokyo. Most Team USA athletes are not represented by sports agents and some have no sponsors or endorsements at all, according to a Forbes report.

Naomi Osaka of Team Japan serves during her Women’s Singles Third Round match against Marketa Vondrousova of Team Czech Republic on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Tennis Park on July 27, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

David Ramos | Getty Images

A handful of athletes may score multimillion dollar endorsements or sponsorship deals, either before competing at the Olympics or after achieving success in the Games. For example, tennis star Naomi Osaka reportedly made $55 million from endorsements in 12 months, and was named the highest-paid female athlete ever, according to reports.

But scoring lucrative deals is rare, and hardly the norm.

Parthasarathi pointed out that one profitable career move for some athletes is to go into coaching after retirement as people are willing to pay a premium for former Olympians.

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through 2032.

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Facebook requiring U.S. employees to be vaccinated to return to work

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An employee of the Internet company Facebook walks through the courtyard of the company campus in Menlo Park, California.

Christoph Dernbach | picture alliance | Getty Images

Facebook will require U.S. workers returning to its offices to be vaccinated, the company said on Wednesday.

“As our offices reopen, we will be requiring anyone coming to work at any of our US campuses to be vaccinated,” VP of People Lori Goler said in a statement. “How we implement this policy will depend on local conditions and regulations.”

Facebook will create processes for those who can’t be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, Goler said. The company will continue to evaluate its approach outside the U.S., Goler added.

Facebook had already told full-time employees that most of them could continue working from home beyond the pandemic if their jobs could be done remotely.

The news comes after Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees earlier the same day that Google would delay its return to office plans by one month, citing the fast-spreading delta variant. Pichai also said returning workers would have to be vaccinated.

Apple earlier delayed its return to office plans, though it has not come out publicly with a vaccine requirement for workers. The company will require customers and staff to wear masks in many of its U.S. retail stores regardless of vaccination status beginning on Thursday, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC’s Josh Lipton.

Though employer-mandated vaccine requirements seemed rare just a few weeks ago, the rise of the delta variant and new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seem to have played a role in shifting some executives’ thinking.

On Tuesday, the CDC walked back its earlier mask guidance for fully vaccinated people, saying that they should again wear masks indoors in places with high Covid-19 transmission rates. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the change was due to new information on the delta variant, showing that some vaccinated people infected by the strain could continue to spread it to others.

WATCH: Employers weigh Covid vaccine mandates and incentives for employees

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Shares of Singapore banks jump after regulator lifts dividend cap

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Automated teller machines of the three Singapore-listed banks: OCBC, DBS and UOB.

Munshi Ahmed | Bloomberg | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Shares of Singapore’s top three banks rose Thursday after the country’s financial regulator lifted a cap on dividend payouts that was implemented following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Singapore’s largest bank DBS Group Holdings climbed around 0.6% in early trade, while smaller peers Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp and United Overseas Bank were up by around 1%.

The three banks make up around one-third of the benchmark Straits Times Index, which rose 0.5%.

The Southeast Asian city-state’s financial regulator and central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said Wednesday that restrictions on bank dividend payments “will not be extended.”

MAS had last year urged banks to cap their total dividends per share for 2020 to 60% of the previous year’s amount in light of economic uncertainties due in part to the pandemic.

“The global economic outlook has since improved. While some uncertainties remain, Singapore’s economy is expected to continue on its recovery path, given strengthening global demand and progress in our vaccination programme,” the regulator said in a statement.

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Before MAS’ move, the European Central Bank and U.S. Federal Reserve made similar decisions to relax restrictions on dividend payouts by banks.

Eugene Tarzimanov, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service, said in a note he expects the three large Singapore banks to increase dividend payments to pre-pandemic levels of around 50% of their net income.

He noted that Moody’s had changed its outlook on the Singapore banking system from negative to stable in March, in recognition of the improving economy, potential for bank earnings to grow and broadly stable asset quality.

DBS, OCBC and UOB are scheduled to report second-quarter earnings next week.

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