U.S. Labor Market Seriously Injured

Note: Also posted on Seeking Alpha. It can be found here.

April FOMC Meeting Minutes: “It likely would be appropriate for the Committee to increase the target range for the federal funds rate in June.”

Last Friday: 38K jobs created in May, the fewest since September 2010. Way way lower than 123K jobs gained (that number is revised….hold your breath) in April. Way way lower than 159K gain expected.


Labor market was seriously injured in May. The United States added only 38,000 new jobs, the fewest in almost six years. Things get worse. Prior two months reading were revised lower by 59,000. There were 123,000 jobs added in April down from initial estimate of 160,000. Nonfarm payroll for March was revised to 186,000 from 208,000.

Total Non-Farm Payrolls - Monthly Net Change (In Thousands)
Total Non-Farm Payrolls – Monthly Net Change (In Thousands)

Yet, unemployment rate surprisingly dropped by 0.3% to 4.7%, the lowest since November 2007. Hold on a second. How can unemployment rate drop so much if employment decreased so much? More people left the labor force, as confidence in the labor market is cooling down.

The labor force participation rate decreased by 0.2% to 62.6%, near 38-year low, unwinding about two-thirds of the rise between last September and March. A record 94,708,000 Americans were not in the labor force in May, 664,000 more than in April.

Unemployment Rate and Labor Force Participation Rate "Death Cross"
Unemployment Rate and Labor Force Participation Rate “Death Cross”

The report has evaporated the chance of a rate-hike this month from the Federal Reserve. Before the report, the federal funds futures were pricing in 55% chance of a rate-hike. Now, that is less than 5%.

Federal Funds Futures Source: @MktOutperform (Twitter)
Federal Funds Futures
Source: @MktOutperform (Twitter)

The next probable rate-hike prediction is December. As I mentioned in early January, the Federal Reserve will lower back rates this year. Let’s dig deep into the jobs report.

About 35,000 job losses can be connected to a 45-day Verizon strike, which began on April 13. The workers returned to work on Wednesday, June 1st, after unions reached a deal with the telecommunications company on compensation and job security.

Since they were not working and was on a strike, they were counted as unemployed. Without the “Verizon strike effect,” May nonfarm payroll would have shown 73,000 gain, still way below from the prior month and expectations.

Information services employment, which Verizon workers would fall under, declined by 34,000 jobs in May, the first decline since November 2015. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) even highlighted the impact of the strike, “employment in information decreased due to a strike.” “About 35,000 workers in the telecommunications industry were on strike and not on company payrolls during the survey reference period,” said BLS in the report.

This is not the first time Verizon workers went on a strike. In both 2000 and 2011, information services employment dropped as Verizon workers demanded more benefits. The month after the strikes, the sector’s employment numbers rebounded.

Verizon Strikes & Information Employment Source: @M_McDonough
Verizon Strikes & Information Employment
Source: @M_McDonough (Twitter)

These 35,000 Verizon workers will be added back to the June’s nonfarm payrolls.

The agreement between the unions and the company gives Verizon workers 10.9% increase in pay over four years (contract expired on August 3, 2019), as well as other benefits. That pay raise is way more than stagnant wages across the country.

Average hourly earnings rose by 5 cents (0.2%) to $25.59, following 9 cents (0.4%) increase in April. On a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the wage growth was flat for two months, growing by 2.5%.

Average Hourly Earnings and 12-Month Percentage Change "Death Cross"
Average Hourly Earnings and 12-Month Percentage Change “Death Cross”

Unemployment at 4.6% is within the range the Fed considers “full employment.” The average unemployment rate from 1948 (oldest data I could find) to last month is 5.8%. This leads me to believe the unemployment rate is below its natural rate, 5.8%. Then, why is not inflation higher?

According to Phillips curve, inflation should be higher. Inflation has been hovering around 0% and 1% since the end of 2014. So, why is the Phillips curve not really working?

Phillips Curve (Inflation and Unemployment Rate)
Phillips Curve (Inflation and Unemployment Rate)

If there’s a recession later this year or next year (as some people are forecasting) and the inflation rate is the same as now, we will have a deflationary problem. This time, the deflationary problem will be much worse than they were before. At this time, I am not forecasting anything on recession. If there is one, it will be very interesting how the central banks react to the deflationary pressures, considering the fact that they are running out of ammunition.

I believe Phillips curve is not really working today due to unemployment engineering (like companies do with non-GAAP) and globalization. Workers should not be counted as unemployed because they didn’t look for work in the past four weeks. Instead, it should be three months or more. It gives them more time to think and flush out their savings, if they even have one. Such discouraged workers should be included in the calculation process of unemployment.

Mostly important, globalization has played a big part in the crisis of Phillips curve. Since the financial crisis and light-speed innovation of technology, many companies found ways and more ways to reduce the costs. Since they are battling for customers, they are reducing their prices, keeping inflation low. The trade agreement, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), will keep or even lower inflation further.

The countries included in TPP (China is excluded) account for 36.2% of global economic output and 25.6% for world trade. By eliminating taxes on exports, companies with intense competition, will reduce their prices further. For example, TPP eliminates import taxes up to 70% on U.S. automotive product exports to TPP countries.

The prices of drugs, on the hand other, will continue to increase. TPP increases the protection of drug patents and copyrights, reducing the availability of cheap generics.

Back to the jobs report. Private sector added only 25,000 jobs, the fewest since February 2010. April’s private sector gain was revised down to 130,000 from 171,000. March’s gain was slightly revised down to 167,000 from 184,000. Constructions payrolls dropped by 15,000, the most since December 2013 and the second consecutive month of decline.

The goods producing sector, which includes mining, manufacturing, and construction, shed 36,000 jobs, the most since February 2010. Mining employment continued its downward trend as plunging oil prices penetrated the operations of energy companies, shedding 10,000 jobs in May. Mining employment have dropped by 207,000 since peaking in September 2014, with three-quarters of the losses in support activities.

Temporary-help service jobs shrank by 21,000 and are down by 64,000 so far this year.

Employment and Earnings by Industrial Sector. Percentage of Labor Force sorted: From the highest to lowest. Green colors: Highest in the column Red colors: Lowest in the column
Employment and Earnings by Industrial Sector.
Percentage of Labor Force sorted: From the highest to lowest.
Green colors: Highest in the column
Red colors: Lowest in the column

Retail employment rose 11,400 (Shopping for summer?) after losing jobs in April for the first time since December 2014. Health care added the most jobs, with 45,700. Over the year, health care jobs jumped by 487,000 (Thanks, Obamacare?).

Diffusion index – which measures the breadth of employment across the private sector – collapsed to 51.3%, the lowest since February 2010. A reading of 50 represents that as many industries gained employment as lost employment. If it’s 0, employment of all industries decreased. If it’s 100, employment of all industries increased. That is down from 53.8% in April and 56.3% in March and from the recent peak of 71.2% in November 2014.

Total Private Employment: 1-Month Employment Change and 1-Month Diffusion Index
Further, the number of people employed for part time for economic reasons (involuntary part-time workers), climbed by 468,000 to 6.4 million, the highest since August and the largest jump since September 2012. This level, in addition to other numbers above, suggests slack still in the labor market. It is still high by historical standards.
Part-Time Employment Level for Economic Reasons
Part-Time Employment Level for Economic Reasons

These workers are included in the alternative measures of underutilization (U-6) that remained unchanged at 9.7% in May.

There are nearly 1.9 million workers who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks, down from 2.1 million in April. It’s the lowest since July 2008, but is still high by historical standards.

Unemployed over 27 weeks
Unemployed over 27 weeks

Three-month average of total nonfarm is down to 116,000 from 181,000 in April. It’s the lowest since July 2012 and is down from 203,000 three-month average during he same period last year. The three-month average of total private is nosedived to 107,000 from 173,000 in April.

The Federal Open Market Committee will meet on June 14-15. They will keep rates on hold, unless they don’t listen to the market like in December. Again, I continue to believe the Fed will lower back rates this year.

The labor market remains in hospital with serious injuries. 

Reactions to the jobs report:

U.S. Dollar (greenback):

U.S. Dollar ("/DX" on thinkorswim)
U.S. Dollar (“/DX” on thinkorswim)

 Gold:

Gold ("/GC" on thinkorswim)
Gold (“/GC” on thinkorswim)

Expectations for the Fed to raise rates ticked higher

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.

CPI and Core-CPI (Jan 2014 - April 2015)
CPI and Core-CPI (Jan 2014 – April 2015)

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.

Dollar Index (/DX) - Hourly
Dollar Index (/DX) – Hourly

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.

Last Friday (May 22, 2015), Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen spoke about the US economic outlook at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce Economic Outlook in Rhode Island. She said that the Federal Reserve is on track to raise short-term interest rates this year, but will likely proceed slowly and cautiously.

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.

EUR/USD - Hourly
EUR/USD – Hourly
EUR/USD - Weekly
EUR/USD – Weekly

 

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.

Central Bank Meeting Minutes: BoE, FOMC and ECB (Update on Greece)

During the week of February 16, 2015, BoE (Bank of England), FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) and ECB (European Central Bank) released its meeting minutes for the latest monetary decisions. Let’s go in depth of these meeting minutes and how we can apply them to our trading decisions.

 

Bank of England (BoE) – (February 18, 2015)

The Bank of England meeting minutes showed that the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted unanimously (9 members) to keep the benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record-low of 0.5%. There were hints it could be lowered in the next few months (yes, decrease, not increase). Two committee members, Martin Weale and Ian McCafferty who voted in favor of rate hike previously, were in favor in holding rates this time. Regarding its inflation in which Consumer Prices Index (CPI) fell to 0.3% (lowest since decades ago) last month changed the views of MPC. Some worry that it might slip below zero in the next few months. It has caused some to suggest rate cut over the next few months. The rate cut hinted in the minutes is totally different than what the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney said last week.

Mark Carney spoke to the press at Inflation Report press conference. He signaled that BoE remains on course to raise interest rates in the U.K. next year, despite decline in inflation. He also mentioned that BoE might cut the interest rate if inflation transforms into deflation (below 0). I believe if the inflation falls below 0, the BoE will cut the interest rate by 0.25, but only for short period of time. However, he pointed out that BoE still expects its next move will be raising rates, not cut them.

There are confusions going on with BoE on interest rate. I look at this way; inflation goes below 0, rate cut will come, inflation starts to increase, rate increase will come, and watch out for future statements by BoE for more clues. I would not trade Pound (GBP) based on these interest rate talks, for now. There is no clear road for interest rate for now. But, I would trade based on other news/events and charts’ technical.

 

Federal Reserve – (February 18, 2015)

The Federal Reserve meeting minutes showed that the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) expressed concerns over raising interest rates too soon, which could could halt or slow the U.S economic “recovery”. They are also worried over the impact of dropping “patient” from central bank’s rate guidance. They thought that removing “patient” from the FOMC statements in the future would put too much weight on its meaning. As a result, it would cause financial markets to overreact (Unlike Swiss National Bank, Federal Reserve cares about financial markets movements). If “patient” is dropped, I would think that interest rate hike is coming in the next two meetings. They also worried about falling inflation expectations in the U.S. If the inflation drops, I believe it’s going to halt (not cut) FOMC from raising the interest rate, but not decrease the rates.

In the minutes, it’s mentioned that there are worries about international events such as Greece (Greece got 4 month bailout) and Ukraine (There’s no “truce”). But, it’s not going to keep them from raising the interest rate, backed by strong jobs reports. However, the federal reserve signaled its willingness to keep interest rates low for longer because of strong U.S dollar and “flat” housing market. Raising interest rates will only send U.S higher, making it much stronger than ever.

On February 24 and 25, Fed Chair Janet Yellen will be speaking in congressional testimony and we should look for further clues to the timing of the interest rate hike.

Any clues of earlier rate hike will send U.S. dollar to rise in which I would go short USD/JPY, USD/CAD, and/or long GBP/USD. Remember, don’t hold your trade positions for more time if you trigger market order just based on what Yellen said, unless there are other news and technical to support your trade.

 

European Central Bank (ECB) – (February 19, 2015)

The European Central Bank first ever meeting minutes showed fears of continued deflation the euro zone, which led to launch of Quantitative Easing (QE) program which starts in March. The main goal of QE is to drag the euro zone out of deflation and near to 2% inflation target. This first minutes doesn’t reveal much of anything. Since there weren’t any new details or “surprising” details, the markets, especially Euro did not move much.

Europe has agreed to extend its financial lifeline to Greece only for 4 months. The deal was stuck last Friday (February 20, 2015). This is another bailout for Greece. How long does Euro has to keep bailing out Greece from the mess Greece made? The deal is not final if Greece does not come up with its plan by Monday (February 23, 2015). Then, it will be voted by institutions involved in the bailout by April. If the institutions do not back the plan, the “deal” becomes “no deal”.

I would still keep an eye on Greece. If you trade Euro, be careful with news coming out of Greece. It will be violent and may cause you to have losing positions or touch stop loss (or make money). When picking Euro to trade, I would pick pairs other than EUR/USD.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave comments or contact. Thank you.