First, the unemployment report offered no surprises as the market was close to the actual release. The real surprise was in the upward revisions to the February and March numbers. The negative surprise was the average work week shrinking by 0.2% of an hour. The shorter work week may be an aberration but it may mean that employers are cutting workers hours so as to keep under the Affordable Care Act mandates, but I caution it is far too early to say that this is definitely occurring. The BOND markets reacted negatively to the “stronger” jobs data and the 10-year note future fell as yields rose by 10 basis points. Investors bought stocks and seemingly sold bonds in a performance of risk-on/risk-off. Again, one day’s action does not a trend make. The pure risk-on/risk-off paradigm has been dormant for quite a while and let’s hope it stays that way.
Archive for the ‘United States’ Category
The last two days has seen two of the world’s key central banks deliver fresh interest rate decisions and there was very little in way of surprises. In a salute to the philosopher Isiah Berlin, I have noted that Chairman Bernanke is a HEDGEHOG and President Draghi a FOX. A hedgehog is one who “views the world through a single defining idea.” The economy is slowing, unemployment is high, inflation is low, so it is appropriate for the FED to buy and continue buying Treasury debt. You say it is not having the desired effect? Buy more. In yesterday’s FOMC statement, the FED noted that ”… FISCAL POLICY IS RESTRAINING ECONOMIC GROWTH.” The meaning of this is that Washington is acting irresponsibly, thus the FED needs to possibly INCREASE its bond and mortgage-backed securities purchases. Whatever it is, QE IS THE ANSWER.
Yes, the U.S. and Canadian unemployment data were well below market expectations. Nonfarm payrolls in the U.S. were half of the consensus number and under the 110,000 NFP that we wanted to see so as to test the resolve of the recent equity market rally. Not only were the jobs created numbers weak–manufacturing actually lost jobs–but the important average hourly earnings were flat (0.2% increase expected) so there is no growth in consumer spending potential. As poor as the data release was, by day’s end the SPOO and DOW rallied well off the lows made early in the day. The impact from poor economic fundamentals was not strong enough to overcome the continued release of central bank liquidity into the global economy.
The central banks were in play today and while the Bank of England held to its present course, the Bank of Japan declared that they were now in full battle gear and announced a very aggressive monetary policy agenda. I was surprised by the tenacity of the announced program and certainly by its timing. The recent movements in the YEN, and,especially the EUR/YEN crossrate meant that the BOJ and the Japanese Finance Ministry had some breathing space to allow some of the ill effects of the Cypriot crisis to calm. No such by the BOJ as they “damned the torpedoes and announced full speed ahead.” If other central banks wish to muddle about that is their business but the Japanese are determined to end the deflation that has plagued their economy. The steps that the BOJ announced, which had the greatest impact on the YEN and the Nikkei were:
I make a distinct reference to the CASH HIGH S&Ps versus the S&P FUTURES has made an all-time high. According to the CQG charts, the all-time high in the S&P futures front month is 1586.75 and the high daily close is 1576.25. The CASH high is 1576.09 and the previous high CASH daily close was 1565.15, which was surpassed on Friday’s close. Here is a significant chart that shows the important difference between Friday’s close and the last record high close of October 9, 2007.
Notes From Underground: The Fed’s Zero Rate, Quantitative Easing Policies Are Stock Market FundamentalsMarch 10, 2013
The continued parade of stock market analysts who proclaim the equity market is rallying merely on Fed monetary policy instead of market fundamentals have spent far too much time doing case studies and not reading economic history. Interest rates as the variable signaling the cost of money are a very critical element and a key fundamental of the economy and especially the equity markets. U.S. multinational corporations are sitting on record piles of cash and also reporting strong profits. Much of the growth in profits can be attributed to two factors: Very low borrowing costs and continued pressure on wages. The FED has created the low interest rates and has hoped that the profitability resulting from low borrowing costs would bleed into higher wages and thus the need for increased hiring. The problem is many fold on the lack of success in aiding jobs creation. Globalization has kept pressure off wages and the deleveraging of the private balance sheets has meant that downward pressure remains on demand.
Notes From Underground: Friday Is the All-Important U.S. Employment Data, But Why Was European Employment Glossed Over?March 7, 2013
The February jobs data has been compiled and is now ready for public consumption. The consensus is for 165,000 (revised upward from 160,000) nonfarm payroll jobs being added and the rate to hold steady at 7.9%. This may be a difficult number to trade because the equity markets have already sloughed off so much negative news to keep the rally in tact–Italian elections, sequestration and economic malaise throughout Europe. The weekly jobless claims numbers have surprised on the downside during the last few weeks so a 200,000 NFP number would not be a surprise. It will be more important to watch average hourly earnings and the length of the work week–earnings are expected to be up by 0.2% per hour.
Notes From Underground: Not Quite Groundhog Day, But It’s Time for the Unemployment Report to See Its ShadowJanuary 31, 2013
Will it be another mediocre report or will the economy show signs of life after the “fiscal cliff” issue was pushed down the halls of Congress? The robustness of the equity markets would certainly make one presume the jobs data “ought” to be better, but my readers are well aware that its ultra low interest rates that put the continued bid to global stocks. In fact, low wage growth and low interest rates have been a dynamic duo for corporate profits as high unemployment continues to keep downward pressure on wages and, of course, corporations are borrowing massive amounts of money through bond offerings and bypassing the need for bank financing. The recent GDP release showed that wages and bonuses had a large increase in the fourth quarter but that was due to businesses bringing dividends and bonuses forward to 2012 so as to beat the tax increases in the new year.
The FED‘s statement today showed no surprises and the vote even was the same as Kansas Fed President Esther George voted NO in opposition to further monetary accommodation by the monetary authorities. James Bullard of the St.Louis Fed voted with the severe majority as did Chicago Fed President Charles Evans. The Bullard vote did not surprise as he has shown a pragmatic edge over the last several years but the consensus vote by Charles Evans was surprising. President Evans has been the most vocal proponent of increased Fed action over the last year when he was a non-voting FOMC member. Today’s negative number on the GDP should have provided Mr. Evans with a perfect excuse to push for a larger FED asset purchase program. At least Ms. George votes in a consistent manner with her rhetoric. The FOMC release opened with this phrase”… suggest that growth in economic activity paused in recent months, in large part because of weather-related disruptions and other transitory factors.” Again, as in years past, it is a spate of bad luck that has caused last quarters slowdown. Before it was the Tsunami in Japan which Bernanke termed “bad luck.”
In the most significant news over the weekend, the Basel Committee announced that it was backing off from the implementation of the 2015 enhanced capital requirements for banks. Under the original Basel III requirements, global banks were going to have to have enough LIQUID ASSETS to be able to sustain a possible financial crisis of 30 days. The ability to sell assets to meet a possible run meant that banks would be forced to hold a larger amount of high quality, easily sellable assets. European banks have been clamoring for relief from the new capital rules for fear that the new standards would create less bank lending as banks rushed to shore up their balance sheets. U.S. banks were supporting the lobbying efforts by the European banks and thus the Basel Committee showed forbearance and lessened the possible impact by extending full compliance with the new regs out until 2019.