The total job gains for August and September were revised 12,000 higher. August was revised 17K higher to 153K from 136k, and September was revised -5K lower to 137K from 142K. Over the last 12 months, employment growth had averaged 230K per month, vs. 222K in the same-period of 2014. In 2014, average monthly payrolls was 260K. This year, it is 206K. Not only jobs gains for October were strong, but also unemployment and wages.
The unemployment rate dipped 0.1% to 5%, its lowest level since April 2008. Average hourly earnings rose by 9 cents an hour to $25.20. It rose 2.5% year-over-year (Y/Y), the best level since July 2009. For most of the “recovery”, wages has been flat. The increase in earnings is significant for two reasons. More money for employees means more spending (don’t forget debts), which accounts two-thirds of the economy. Second, wage growth might suggest that employers are having trouble finding new workers (should I say “skilled” workers) and they have to pay more to keep its workers and/or to get new skilled workers. This could draw more people back into the labor market, increasing the participation rate. Without the right skills, good luck.
The labor force participation rate remained unchanged at a 38-year (1977) low of 62.4%. The long-term decline in the participation rate is due to the aging of the baby-boom generation and loss of confidence in the jobs market. There hasn’t even been a rebound in participation rate of prime-age Americans (between the ages of 25 and 54).
More than 122 million Americans had full-time jobs at the end of October, the highest since December 2007 (121.6 million).
Immediately after the jobs report, the probability of a rate-hike in December lifted. Fed funds futures currently anticipates about 65% chance of a rate hike next month vs. about 72% immediately after the report and about 55% before the report.
Federal Reserve Chairwoman, Janet Yellen, lately has been saying that December’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting was “live” for a potential rate-hike. While this jobs report is positive, I believe it is too early to jump in on conclusions.
The policymakers should not be too quick to act on one report. In September, the Fed left rates unchanged mainly due to a low inflation. Inflation is still low and we will get a fresh look on Tuesday (November 17) when Consumer Price Index (CPI) is released.
Right after the jobs report, the dollar skyrocketed and was 40 cents away from hitting $100 mark. It’s currently at $98.88 and there is a very high chance it will go above $100 until December 15, the first day of FOMC meeting.
If the November job numbers does not surprise to the upside (released in December 4), inflation stays low, and the dollar keeps strengthening, I do not believe the Fed will hit the “launch” button for a rate-hike liftoff.
Markets were pricing less than 30% chance of rate-hike and most people in the financial markets were not expecting rate-hike. Well, not me. I was actually expecting 0.25%, 10 basis points rate increase, as I stated in my previous post.
“Recent global economic and financial developments may restrain economic activity somewhat and are likely to put further downward pressure on inflation in the near term.” Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said in statement. They are referring to events that took place in August, that can be described in one word; uncertainty.
Before we go any further, let’s compare the last two Fed statements.
According to the Fed’s famous “Dot Plot” – that is where committee members think interest rates are going – one committee member, for the first time ever, thinks the U.S needs to move to negative interest rates until the end of 2016.
During the press conference, Janet Yellen – the chairwoman of the Fed – indicated that negative rates were not “seriously considered at all today” and that the policymaker in question was “concerned by the inflation outlook”. The Fed looks at a model “Phillips Curve” which states that inflation and unemployment have a stable and inverse relationship. It hasn’t been working lately.
She said something that I found very interesting, “That’s something we’ve seen in several European countries. It’s not something we talked about today. Look. If not– I don’t expect that we’re going to be in the path of providing additional accommodation but if the outlook were to change in a way that most of my colleagues and I do not expect and we found ourselves with a weak economy that needed additional stimulus, we would look at all of our available tools and that would be something that we would evaluate in that kind of context.” This shows that even the Fed is uncertain about the future and another quantitative easing is a possibility.
If you want to see the body language from Yellen as she said it, go watch the press conference video. It can be very interesting. Any body language experts here?
The Fed also raised growth forecast for the year and cut unemployment projection.
Yellen expressed that some countries other than China are also danger to the U.S, “…we saw a very substantial downward pressure on oil prices and commodity markets…significant impact on many emerging market economies that are important producers of commodities, as well as more advanced countries including Canada, which is an important trading partner of ours that has been negatively affected by declining commodity prices, declining energy prices….important emerging markets have been negatively affected by those developments. And we’ve seen significant outflows of capital from those countries, pressures on their exchange rates and concerns about their performance going forward. So, a lot of our focus has been on risks around China but not just China, emerging markets, more generally in how they may spill over to the United States.”
Back to “wait and see” mode again. Weak start in the year hammered the chances of rate-hike in June. Now, outsiders hammered the chances of rate-hike in September. Next stop?
If the current situation stays unchanged, I expect rate increase of 0.10% (again) in October (FOMC press conference will be called if the Fed decides to change rates). But, the current situation might get much worse. The bad news might come from China again.
Xi Jinping, China’s president and Communist Party chief, will arrive in the U.S next week to meet President Obama and business leaders. After the meeting when Mr. Xi is back in China, unpredictability arrives.
China would not want to create tension with the U.S before they meet face-to-face. Thus, unpredictability comes in two or three weeks. China might devalue their currency again, by 5% or more. They might even dump much more U.S Treasuries again.
It’s reported that China dumped U.S Treasurys of $83 billion and $94 billion in the month of July and August, respectively. Why would China sell U.S Treasurys? China is in dire need of cash. Capital outflows are increasing substantially and their stock market are declining substantially. China would want to cut its holdings of treasurys to support the yuan.
According to latest data from the U.S Treasury Department, China’s holdings of U.S Treasuries was $1.240 trillion in the end of July (is probably much less now), the smallest since February 2015. In end-June, China held $1.271 trillion. China remains the world’s largest holder of U.S debt. What does that mean for the U.S?
If U.S’s #1 lender stops supporting or stops buying U.S debt, the cost of everything that depends on Treasury rates could rise, putting pressure on the Federal Reserve and prevent the Fed from raising rates. Treasury yields (inverse relationship with prices) are the benchmark that sets the cost of borrowing.
China’s abandonment of U.S Treasury debt is a warning.
Imagine if China’s major trading partner, Japan, joins China in selling U.S Treasuries. Japan is the second-largest holder of U.S. Treasuries, with $1.197 trillion in July. The devaluation of Yuan will make Japanese exports less competitive. Japan’s economy is still suffering despite Abenomics. As I stated in my post “Global Markets Crash + Asian Crisis Part 2“, Abenomics has failed. Soon enough, Japan might also be in dire need of cash and they might start cutting their holdings of U.S Treasuries.
Recently, Standard & Poor’s slashed its ratings on Japanese debt from AA- to A+ because of weak economic growth, blaming Abenomics “…we believe that the government’s economic revival strategy–dubbed “Abenomics”–will not be able to reverse this deterioration in the next two to three years.” According to Standard & Poor, Japan’s Debt/GDP ratio currently stands at 242.4%, a dangerous level for developed country.
I believe Bank of Japan (BoJ) will increase its purchases of government debt to cover the danger of Japan’s Debt/GDP ratio and will sell portion of U.S Treasurys.
We can conclude everything will probably get much worse. The Fed will have no other choice, but to start another round of quantitative easing. In other words, debt monetization, a process of buying Treasury and corporate debt on the open market, increasing money supply. When increasing money supply, interest rates should fall.
The Fed is being held hostage by outsiders, such as China and Brazil. It probably won’t end well for the U.S, promoting another round of Quantitative Easing.
Last Friday (May 22, 2015), U.S Consumer Price Index (CPI) report for April was released and it was in line with expectations. CPI increased a seasonally adjusted 0.1% in April and core-CPI (excludes food and energy) increased 0.3%, largest since January 2013. CPI reflects what people pay for goods and services. It’s an important indicator for inflation. The Federal Reserve watches inflation numbers closely, to determine the health of the US economy and whenever to raise interest rates.
Over the past 12-months, CPI declined 0.2% (biggest year-to-year drop since October 2009), largely due to the plunge in energy prices (energy index), which fell 19.4% over the last 12-months. However, core-CPI (which excludes food and energy, the violent categories) increased 1.8% over the last 12-months.
The positive inflation report may suggest that the Fed may not be that far away from raising interest rates. Stronger numbers gives a sense of relief that the US economy is pulling itself out of a slump that dragged growth down to 0.2% (GDP report previous post) in the first quarter of 2015. However, the inflation is far below the Fed’s 2% target.
The positive change in core prices was driven by rising costs for housing, medical care, furniture, and vehicles, while clothing and airfare prices declined. Fall in the oil prices led airplane companies to lower their airfares, to complete with competitors. I believe clothing and airfare prices will start to rise soon because summer is here. In the summer, people tend to travel more often (demand increases), pushing prices up. Oil has rebounded to the range of $60, as oil inventory decreases.
The dollar rose after the CPI report. The greenback (the dollar) gained almost 1%, rising to a highest price level since late-April. US markets were flat on Friday after both the Dow and the S&P 500 hit new records this week.
According to Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting minutes released last Wednesday (May 20, 2015), FOMC expects inflation to gradually rise as the labor market improves and transitory effects such as low oil prices fade away. They believed that there would not be enough information of overall health of US economy to start raising rates at their next meeting in June. The next policy meeting takes place on June 16 and June 17.
Chances of rate hike in June are very low, but the door is not closed. If the next non-farm payroll and Prelim GDP (Gross Domestic Product) (Friday, May 29, 2015) comes out very positive, the Fed will likely raise the rates. Prelim GDP is the second estimate of the last quarter. If you want to know more about the first GDP estimate of the last quarter, click here.
As to trading, I would go long on the dollar and short EUR/USD. Why would I short EUR/USD? Recently, EUR/USD rebounded all the way to above 1.1450. As of right now, it’s around 1.1000. The recent rise in EUR/USD is an opportunity to go short.
News: First, I believe the U.S economy will rebound and future US economic reports will be positive, sending USD higher. Second, I believe Greece will default and eventually leave euro-zone (Greece exiting euro-zone is also known as “Grexit”), which will plunge Euro. Current Greece headlines are just background noises, until we know for sure that Greece will be staying or not.
Technical: If you look at 1-HOUR chart of EUR/USD, you can see that EUR/USD broke a strong support level that used to be resistance. If you look at WEEKLY chart of EUR/USD, you can see that there is a Bearish Engulfing Pattern. Technical seems to be bearish.
If you have any questions/comments, feel free to leave comments below and/or contact me by going to “Contact Me” box above. I can also be reached on twitter (@Khojinur30). Thank you.