What Did the May Jobs Report Show Us? – Weekly Update for June 6, 2016

Adobe Spark (7)Stocks closed the holiday-shortened week mixed, with some sectors losing ground while others gained after a disappointing May jobs report signaled that the economy may not be strong enough for the Federal Reserve to raise rates this month. For the week, the S&P 500 ended flat, the Dow lost 0.37%, the NASDAQ increased 0.18%, and the MSCI EAFE added 0.13%.

On Friday, we got a look at how the labor market did in May. Analysts looked to the report to see whether the labor market would give the Fed the ammunition it needed to move at the June meeting. Here are a few things we took away:

Job growth disappoints…but it has happened before

The economy created just 38,000 new jobs last month, the worst showing since September 2010. The number of new jobs sharply missed expectations, which called for around 160,000 new jobs. However, seasonal factors, like a massive Verizon worker strike, which took 34,000 workers out of the count, were at play and may have affected hiring numbers.

The labor market has suffered temporary setbacks before. For example, in December 2013, the economy added a paltry 45,000 jobs; four months later, the economy gained 310,000 jobs. In March 2015, the labor market added just 84,000 jobs; in July, 277,000 new jobs were created.

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Labor market trends may slow job creation

The jobs report showed that the unemployment rate fell to 4.7%, the lowest since November 2007. However, much of the decrease occurred when jobseekers dropped out of the job search. As we approach full employment (some may argue that we’re already there), the effects of having fewer jobseekers begin to be felt by employers.

Employers who are hiring may struggle to find qualified candidates due to skill mismatches, a problem that’s likely to continue to affect certain industries.

These issues affect job creation in a “mature” labor market recovery. One industry expert projects that monthly job growth will average 175,000 for the rest of 2016. In comparison, monthly job increases averaged 251,000 in 2014 and 229,000 in 2015.

Can the slower pace of hiring support the consumer spending the economy needs to grow? Perhaps, if wages continue to grow. Wages were up 2.5% in May as compared to a year ago, which is a better pace of growth than we have seen. Another measure of wage growth favored by economists, the Employment Cost Index (ECI), shows that wages were up 2.4% (year-over-year) in the first quarter. A third measure calculated by the Atlanta Fed shows a rosier 3.4% annual increase in hourly wages in April. You can bet that the Fed will be looking at all three measures when deciding if wage growth is strong enough to support consumer spending this year.

The Fed may not raise rates in June

The weak report also may have reduced the odds of a June interest hike by the Federal Reserve, though some analysts think that other positive economic indicators might give the Fed the confidence to act. Right now, the market is pretty convinced the Fed won’t raise rates in June; one measure shows that the current market probability of a June hike is just 3.8%, while the probability of a July hike is 31.3%.

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Our view

Overall, does the weak May jobs report signal weakness in the U.S. economy?

Perhaps, though it’s far to soon to sound the alarm. Since other economic indicators like Gross Domestic Product growth, housing market activity, and personal spending all point to positive growth, it’s not likely that one weak report spells disaster for the economy. Rather than fixate on a single piece of data, it’s more important to look at overall economic trends.

Looking ahead, we’re expecting investors to take stock of the dismal jobs report and perhaps hit the brakes on the three-month rally we’ve experienced. Summer tends to be a slow season for markets as many traders take time off and stocks can overreact to headlines. A small pullback in the weeks to come wouldn’t surprise us, though traders could also shrug off the report. While weak data always sidelines some investors, long-term investors should focus more on their goals and less on short-term market swings. As always, we’ll keep you updated.

 

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Janet Yellen Speaks 12:30 PM ET, Janet Yellen Speaks 2:00 PM ET

Tuesday: Productivity and Costs

Wednesday: JOLTS, EIA Petroleum Status Report

Thursday: Jobless Claims

Friday: Consumer Sentiment, Treasury Budget

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HEADLINES:

Motor vehicle sales slump in May. The latest data shows that fewer selling days and lower foot traffic hurt U.S. auto sales last month.

Construction spending falls in April. Spending by construction firms on residential, government, and nonresidential projects declined, surprising economists who had expected a slight overall increase.

Factory orders beat expectations. April orders for U.S. manufactured goods grew by the largest amount in six months, though much of the growth came from volatile commercial aircraft orders.

Personal spending surges in April. Spending by American consumers grew more than expected while personal income increased in line with expectations, showing that consumer spending is off to a good start in the second quarter.

Fed Changes Tune On Interest Rates – Weekly Update for May 23, 2016

Adobe Spark (1)Stocks closed out a bumpy week mixed, ending a three-week stretch of losses for the S&P 500 and NASDAQ. The Dow, however, extended losses for a fourth straight week for the first time since 2014. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.28%, the Dow lost 0.20%, the NASDAQ gained 1.10%, and the MSCI EAFE added 0.16%.

Market reactions to the release of the April Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting minutes drove much of last week’s volatility. The official minutes showed that the Fed is moving away from its cautious stance and is open to raising interest rates as soon as June if data points to a solid second quarter. The unexpected hawkishness surprised many investors who weren’t expecting a hike until later this year.

However, some professional economists predicted a June hike. The most recent Wall Street Journal survey of economists showed that their experts were split, with 31.4% predicting a June increase, 21.4% favoring a July hike, and 31.4% forecasting a September increase. On the other hand, Wall Street largely discounted a June move. Early in the week, before the minutes were released, traders predicted just a 4% chance of a June rate hike. By Friday, that probability had increased to 30%. Clearly, the new information is forcing investors to revise their expectations for interest rate movements this year.

The labor market will play a major role in the Fed’s June decision. The April jobs report was softer than expected, showing that many employers were reluctant to hire in the face of uncertain business conditions. The May jobs report, due on June 3rd, will be key to showing whether the labor market has returned to a strong trend or is continuing to weaken.

Will a strong May jobs report guarantee a June rate hike? Some experts think so while others think the risks posed by Britain’s upcoming vote on whether to leave the EU (the “Brexit” you may have read about) will be enough to give the Fed pause. All told, it’s likely to be a lively June meeting at the Fed.

Volatility is likely to continue in the days and weeks ahead as analysts fixate on predicting when the central bank will raise rates again. While short-term volatility can be stressful to investors who would prefer a steady ride, it’s important not to let intraday swings and bumps in the road derail your long-term investment strategies. We’ll keep you updated.

 

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

 Monday: PMI Manufacturing Index Flash

Tuesday: New Home Sales

Wednesday: International Trade in Goods, EIA Petroleum Status Report

Thursday: Durable Goods Orders, Jobless Claims, Pending Home Sales Index

Friday: GDP, Consumer Sentiment, Janet Yellen Speaks 10:30 AM ET

 

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HEADLINES:

April housing starts surge. Groundbreaking on single- and multi-family homes jumped 6.6% last month as construction firms grew more optimistic about business prospects.

Industrial production rises. Stronger demand for utilities drove industrial production 0.7% higher in April. However, the manufacturing component rose just 0.3% after declining in March, indicating that U.S. manufacturers are still struggling.

Jobless claims fall from 14-month high. Weekly claims for new unemployment benefits fell last week, showing that the previous weeks of increases might have been an anomaly.

Existing home sales increase more than expected. Sales of existing homes rose 1.7% in April and March’s resales were revised slightly higher, suggesting that the housing market is gaining ground.

U.S. Economy Regains All Jobs Lost in the Recession Weekly Update – June 9, 2014

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/ddpavumba

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/ddpavumba

Markets rallied for the third week in a row, sending stocks to new all-time highs on the back of a strong May jobs report. For the week, the S&P 500 rose 1.34%, the Dow gained 1.24%, and the Nasdaq grew 1.86%.1

Markets shot up on Friday after a better-than-expected jobs report showed slow and steady improvement in the labor market. Here are some high level takeaways: The economy gained 217,000 new jobs in May, many in business services and healthcare, indicating that the quality of available jobs may also be improving. Though headline unemployment is unchanged at 6.3%, digging deeper, we can see that the number of people who can’t find full-time jobs has fallen, as has the number who are forced to work part-time for lack of better options.2 This is great news for the labor market.

We also want to point out an important milestone reached last month: The economy has regained all of the jobs lost in the recession. The chart below shows that total nonfarm employment in the U.S. reached 138.5 million in May, up 8.8 million since the bottom of the recession in 2010.3

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While this is a noteworthy event, when we consider population growth and labor force growth, employment is still below healthy levels and the labor market still has a ways to go.

The European Central Bank voted to adopt aggressive measures to prop up Europe’s lagging economy. Though the ECB hasn’t quite reached Federal Reserve-style quantitative easing measures, it cut interest rates below zero, charging banks for holding money overnight. Economists hope the move will force banks to lend money out rather than pay to keep it on deposit, increasing the availability of credit to businesses and staving off deflation.4 Reactions to the move were mixed, with some analysts applauding the move, while others worried about the possible effects on savers. Regardless of the outcome, it will likely take several quarters to see any effects of the new lower interest rates.

The week ahead is thin on economic data, but investors will be looking at Friday’s consumer sentiment report to see if Americans have regained their optimism after a weak showing in mid-May. Since consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of economic growth, consumer attitudes play an important part in economic forecasts and short-term market movements. Retail sales will also be in focus on Thursday.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

 

Wednesday: EIA Petroleum Status Report, Treasury Budget

Thursday: Jobless Claims, Retail Sales, Import and Export Prices, Business Inventories

Friday: PPI-FD, Consumer Sentiment

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HEADLINES:
Notes: All index returns exclude reinvested dividends, and the 5-year and 10-year returns are annualized. Sources: Yahoo! Finance and Treasury.gov. International performance is represented by the MSCI EAFE Index. Corporate bond performance is represented by the DJCBP. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.

Student loan debt behind housing stall? A former Federal Housing Administration head blames crushing student debt loads for delayed household formation and lackluster home sales. Higher housing prices in desirable urban areas may also make it challenging for first-time homebuyers to purchases homes.5

Consumer credit use rises. Americans ramped up their use of credit cards in April, pushing consumer credit growth to its fastest pace in nearly three years. Credit card use is up to its highest annual rate since November 2001. Higher use of credit is a potentially positive sign for consumer spending.6

Factory orders rise. Orders to American factories rose in April for the third straight month, adding to the growing pile of evidence that suggests U.S. manufacturing is picking up speed after the slow winter. Manufacturing is a significant component of the economy and strong gains should add to GDP growth this quarter.7

Motor vehicle sales rise. Auto sales surged last month, rising 11%, confirming that cold winter weather was the main factor in weak demand early this year. Despite issues with recalls on some brands, several automakers logged double-digit monthly sales growth.8

Markets End May at New Highs Weekly Update – June 2, 2014

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/jscreationzs

Image courtesy of
FreeDigitalPhotos.net/jscreationzs

Markets rallied for most of last week, pushing the S&P 500 and the Dow to new record closes. For the week, the S&P 500 rose 1.21%, the Dow gained 0.67%, and the Nasdaq grew 1.36%.1 Despite some volatile weeks, markets ended May on an upbeat note. For the month, the S&P 500 picked up 2.10%, the Dow gained 0.82%, and the Nasdaq rose 3.10%.2

On the economic front, investors got their second look at first quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth last week and the revised estimate shows that the economy contracted by 1.0% in the first three months.3Markets shrugged off the disappointing news, partly because much of the GDP drop can be attributed to weather. Despite the dip in Q1 GDP growth, Philly Fed President Charles Plosser is still optimistic about a stronger second quarter and projects that annual GDP may still reach 3.0%.4

A gauge of consumer sentiment fell in May as Americans worried about stagnant wage growth. While most respondents were confident that the economy is on an upward trend, many were concerned about how poor income growth will affect their standard of living this year.5 Jobless claims fell sharply last week. The four-week moving average of claims also fell to a new post-recession low, indicating that the labor market continues to recover.6

You might have heard of the seasonal investing trope “sell in May and go away.” The theory is that stock investors should sell out of their positions in May and buy again in November because they should avoid holding equities over the summer. The strong performance markets experienced last month is a perfect example of why you should ignore these types of formulas. Complex market behavior is impossible to predict with any accuracy, and long-term investors need to focus more on long-term financial goals than on short-term market performance.

The week ahead is heavy with economic data, including the much-anticipated May jobs report, which investors will look to in order to confirm the upward trend in the labor market.

 

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: PMI Manufacturing Index, ISM Mfg. Index, Construction Spending

Tuesday: Motor Vehicle Sales, Factory Orders

Wednesday: ADP Employment Report, International Trade, Productivity and Costs, ISM Non-Mfg. Index, EIA Petroleum Status Report, Beige Book

Thursday: Jobless Claims

Friday: Employment Situation

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HEADLINES:

Durable goods orders rise unexpectedly. Analysts were surprised by a sudden increase in April orders for long-lasting goods. This is the second straight month of solid gains, indicating that the manufacturing sector – contributing about 12.5% of GDP – is rebounding with the overall economy.7

Fewer Americans rely on food stamps. In a positive sign for the financial health of low-income households, the number of Americans claiming Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits has fallen. As the economic recovery continues, it’s hoped that government spending on SNAP benefits will continue to drop.8

U.S. personal spending falls in April. Personal consumption, a government measure that captures overall spending on goods in services, fell slightly in April after rising a seasonally adjusted 1.0% in March. Some of the decline can be attributed to lower spending on heating as the weather warmed, indicating that underlying consumer demand still remains strong.9

Home prices rise in March. Prices of U.S. single-family homes continued to rise in March, but at a slower pace than a year ago. This is a sign of persistent deceleration in the housing market. However, it may represent a return to normalized home buying activities driven by underlying economic fundamentals rather than pent up demand.10