Fed Will Hike The Rates By…(Hint: Not 0.25%)

Last Friday (September 4, 2015), non-farm payrolls AKA jobs report for August came out little bit stronger. 173,000 jobs were added in August and the unemployment rate decreased by 0.2% (5.3% in July) to 5.1% (The Fed considers unemployment rate of 5.0% to 5.2% as “full employment”), lowest since April 2008.

Employments numbers for June and July were revised higher. June was revised from 231K to 245K (+14K) and July was revised from 215K to 245K (+30K). With these revisions, employments gains in June and July were 44K higher than previously reported.

Total Non-Farm Payrolls - Monthly Net Change
Total Non-Farm Payrolls – Monthly Net Change

Average hourly earnings increased 8 cents or 0.32% (biggest rise in 7 months) to $25.09, a 2.2% gain from a year ago. The average work week increased 0.1 hour, to 34.6 hours. Increasing income will lead to increased spending (demand increases) which leads to increase in Consumer Price Index (CPI) (As demand increases, suppliers will increase the prices of goods and services) which then leads to an increase in inflation, getting closer to Fed’s 2% inflation target (or inflation rockets to the moon, damaging the economy).

Lower oil prices may be holding back wage increases, especially in the energy sector.

While average hourly earnings are slowly growing, recent “positive” changes in the minimum wages – higher minimum wages – will not help earnings/income, but will only mutilate the US economy. While the minimum wage increases may sound like a good thing, but it isn’t. When businesses are forced to pay higher wages to their workers, they may have to increase prices for their goods/services, leading to increase in inflation. Some businesses might lose their market share to low-paying businesses aboard. After businesses adjust their prices to offset wage increases, there’s no actual change in the “buying power” of consumers.

It’s better to let US companies make their own decisions regarding wages. Let the markets lead. Laissez-Faire.

The labor force participation did not move at all, at 62.6% for a third straight month.

So, unemployment decreased and labor force participation stayed unchanged. Here’s the dark side:

261K Americans dropped out of the labor force, pushing total US workers who are not in the labor force to a record of 94 million. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively looking for jobs. Those who dropped out of the labor force are not actively looking for jobs. Therefore, real unemployment rate can be and is much higher.

This report was the latest jobs report before the Federal Reserve meets this month to answer “million-dollar” question, rate-hike or not? The Fed will meet on September 16 and 17 to decide whether to raise interest rates for the first time since June 2006.

Rate-hike in June 2015? Well, that did not happen. Rate-hike in September 2015? Well, expectations for the rate-hike were lowered due to uncertainty about China and the health of global economy. But, Yes, there will be a rate-hike this month. No, not 0.25% (or 25 basis points). The Fed will raise the rates by…

…10 basis points or 0.10%…

0.10% is very reasonable.

On August 27, Preliminary (2nd estimate) Gross Domestic Product (GDP) showed that the US economy grew faster than initially thought in the second quarter. GDP expanded at 3.7% annualized rate instead of the previous estimate (advance estimate) of 2.3%.

This clearly shows a sharp acceleration in US economic growth momentum following a weak start in the year.

Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) (Consumer spending), which accounts for two-thirds of US economic activity, grew at a 3.1% in the second quarter following 1.8% growth in first quarter.

Real GDP and PCE- Quarterly % Change (2012 Q1 - 2015 Q2)
Real GDP and PCE- Quarterly % Change (2012 Q1 – 2015 Q2)

PCE price index (inflation measurement) increased at 2.2% annualized rate after declining by -1.9% in the first quarter. Core-PCE (excluding food and energy) increased at 1.8% annualized rate after increasing only 1.0% in the first quarter.

Further revisions for the second quarter are possible when the Department Of Commerce releases its final (third) GDP update on September 25.

Market reactions to the economic reports:

S&P 500 ("SPX") - 15 Min. Chart
S&P 500 (“SPX”) – 15 Min. Chart
US Dollar ("/DX") - Hourly Chart
US Dollar (“/DX”) – Hourly Chart

No Clear Direction Signs For US Economy…….Yet

Last Friday (May 8, 2015), non-farm payrolls report was released and it was in-line with expectations. 223,000 new jobs were added in April, and the unemployment rate fell by 0.1% to 5.4%, the lowest level since May 2008. While, this is a good news. March gains was revised down to 85,000 from the prior estimate of 126,000 (-41,000), lowest since 2012. I believe the April number (223,000) will also be revised lower.

Wage growth remained modest. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 2.2%. As unemployment rate falls, wages should start to pick up speed, which also will push up inflation.

Fed officials are closely watching the labor market and other key economic reports, as they are in a tough spot on raising short-term rates, which have been held near zero since December 2008.

There is a very little chance of rate hike in June. I believe the Fed won’t hike the interest rates, unless over 350,000 jobs are added in May and unemployment rate goes down by 0.2% to 5.2% (which certainly will not happen).

First quarter was very weak due to; strong U.S. dollar, low energy prices, West Coast port strike, and the bad weather. When these four are combined together, it creates a heavy roof to push down economic growth.

Hiring has been strong in many industries, except energy. About 15,000 energy jobs were lost in April, worst month since May 2009. Lower oil prices increased the pressure on the energy sector. Low energy prices has caused energy companies to lose profits. As a result, they had to cut jobs. Recently, crude oil inventories supply were declining, which caused oil prices to rise above $60.

Last Tuesday (May 5, 2015), trade balance report was released and it exploded. The US trade deficit widened by 43.1% to a seasonally adjusted $51.4 billion in March, largest monthly expansion in the trade gap since December 1996 and the largest deficit reading since October 2008. Trade balance is when you subtract imports from exports. In other words, it’s the difference between imports and exports.

Trade Balance for the past two years
Trade Balance for the past two years

A biggest reason for the weakness was the 9-month slowdown at West Coast port due to a labor contract dispute. West Coast ports is back in business. Imports arriving though the West Coast port surged. Imports increased 7.7% in March, the largest increase on record. While exports only increased 0.9% in March, reflecting strong dollar impact. In the past 12 months, the dollar has jumped almost 10%. Strong dollar had made Americans goods and services less competitive in global markets. Bigger imports and smaller exports mean a bigger deficit.

I believe it’s not to worry about in a long term. Once the backlog is cleared, imports will drop and the trade deficit will also drop.

Recently, the dollar has fallen sharply because of weak US economic reports, including Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

On April 29, 2015 (Wednesday), GDP Advance estimate increased at an annual rate of 0.2% in the first quarter of 2015, down from 2.2% in the fourth quarter of 2014 (-2.0%). This is a huge difference. Economists were anticipating growth of 1% in the first quarter.

Real GDP for the past three years
Real GDP for the past three years

Again, the weakness was due to U.S. dollar, low energy prices, West Coast port strike, and the bad weather. West Coast port strike disrupted the flow of trade, increasing imports which negatively impact GDP. In the past 12 months, the dollar has jumped almost 10%.

According to the report, Real exports of goods and services decreased 7.2% in the first quarter, from an increase of 4.5% in the fourth quarter. Real Imports of goods and services increased 1.8%, from an increase of 10.4% in the fourth quarter.

I’m afraid that Q1 GDP will be revised to negative number. Second estimate (Preliminary) of Q1 GDP will be released on Friday, May 29, 2015.

First quarter GDP was disappointing. I believe the economy should bounce back in the 3 quarters of 2015.

US markets were very happy with the jobs report, but not with other economic reports. The Dow soared more than 250 points, or 1.5% on Friday. While USD bracket currencies were mixed.

Check out the charts below; Dow Jones and US Dollar. US Dollar has fallen signification after hitting of $100.27 on mid-April. Dow Jones has been in a range. Dow Jones chart includes something “extra”, that’s not included in the post here.

US Dollar Index - Four Hourly Chart
US Dollar Index – Four Hourly Chart

 

Dow Jones ($DJI) - Hourly Chart
Dow Jones ($DJI) – Hourly Chart

 

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