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 ‘unemployment’ 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:
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 policy has painted itself into a proverbial corner. A ZEROHEDGE piece shows that in the age group of 16-55 there has been a loss of 2.7 million jobs during the previous few years, while in the 55-69 age group there has been a gain of 4 million jobs. This has been a recurrent theme of Notes From Underground during the last two years. The FED‘s policy of financial repression has resulted in an outcome that its beloved models failed to predict. The baby boomers haven’t been able to retire because their saving plans have been undermined by the zero interest rate policy. Zerohedge shows that debt-ladened college graduates are unable to find jobs and thus are struggling to repay education loans. Recent college grads are forced to live at home and are not creating new households.
The fiscal crisis came and went and yet the Potemkin village remains. So much was made about the looming fiscal calamity and its dire consequences that the probabilities of a compromise were overwhelming. Not only did fiscal sanity fail to show, the final package was beyond my comprehension. As the nation’s focus was supposedly on Congress, these purveyors of fiscal rectitude passed a BILL that was laden with pork. NASCAR, Hollywood, alternative energy et. al. were the recipients of CONGRESSIONAL LARGESSE IN THE TIME OF FISCAL AUSTERITY. There is no shame in the payment of political favors even in the full view of the MIDDLE CLASS.
The Financial Times headline played up the report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) that by 2017 the U.S. will become the world’s largest energy producer. The use of fracking and other newly developed technologies has enabled the exploitation of previously uneconomic carbon deposits. In 1974 I sat in an economic geography class in which the professor claimed that the U.S. was full on shale oil and gas and its development was merely a matter of price. Being a know-it-all about the Club of Rome studies on the limits of growth, I entered into a lively debate with the prof about why he was wrong and the effects of the energy crisis was going to lead to the demise of Kapitalism. If I could remember his name I would send an appropriate apology.