Strong Jobs Report Again – Time To Change?

My finals at Baruch College are over. I’m back now. In this post, I will write about November jobs report. On the next post, I will be writing about the European Central Bank (ECB), the Fed and the risks for a rate increase.


On December 4, the United States Department of Labor reported November payroll numbers, which was stronger than expected. There was 211K jobs added in November, stronger than expected and the second consecutive month increase above 200K. Additionally, September and October payrolls were revised higher  by 35K. September was revised higher from 137K to 145K (+8K) and November from 271K to 298K (+27K). Over the past 12 months, an average monthly job gain was 237K, little higher than the 224K average in the same period of 2014. Year-to-date, however, only 210K jobs were added every month on average, compared to 253K last year for the same period.

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

I believe this hiring pace is only temporary due to holidays. A lot of employers, especially large department retailers, are adding temporary or “seasonal”  workers. Retail trade payrolls rose 31K as retailers ramped up seasonal hiring.

The unemployment remained at a April-2008 low of 5%. The labor-force participation rate ticked up 0.1% higher from 38-year (1977) low of 62.4% to 62.5%. In a typical business cycle, the labor-force participation rate rises when the economy is growing reboustly. While this participation rate ticked higher, we should not get our hopes up. It has been in a long-term decline since the financial crisis of 2008. One month of data is not enough.

Unemployment Rate + Labor Force Participation Rate

One interesting thing to note is the U-6 unemployment rate, or the underemployment. It is a broader measure of unemployment, which includes people who aren’t looking for work and those who are working fewer hours than they wish. An individual with a master’s degree working as a bus driver is considered to be underemployed. U-6 ticked up to 9.9% in November from 9.8% in October, but down from 11.4% a year ago. If it increases again in December, I look that as a sign that the economy is about to get worse. If it continues to increase and increase, the economy is headed for a trouble.

Average hourly earnings rose by 4 cents, or 0.2% to $25.25, following a 9-cent gain in October. Half of the monthly gain in November compared to October, pulled down the annual rate down from 2.5% to 2.3%. Average weekly hours worked fell 0.1 hours from 34.6 to 34.5.

Average Hourly Earnings and Average Weekly Hours
Average Hourly Earnings and Average Weekly Hours

While increasing wages are good news, increases in minimum wages are dreadful for the economy in the long run. I previously stated in “October Jobs Report Strong: It is Just One Report” post,

“…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.”

“Without the right skills, good luck.” Any escalation in minimum wages will cause more students to drop out to work at “no-skill needed” and/or “low-skill needed” places.

Unemployment rate for civilians by 16-19 years old, and 25 years and over by educational attainment
Unemployment rate for civilians by 16-19 years old, and 25 years and over by educational attainment

Young people should not drop out just to work at Mcdonald, Costco, etc, as a “minimum wage” employee. They need skills. Skills that will be very useful for their future. Not flipping burger skills.

You see the red line on a graph above? That’s the unemployment rate for 16-19 years old in the past two decades. The lower the education attainment, the higher the unemployment rate.

Don’t forget the threat of technology. Do not underestimate the power of technology. McDonald has already rolled out and are rolling out self-service kiosks in restaurants. In other words, replace the “minimum-wage” employees with technology.

While this is a strong jobs report again, it is time to change. Holiday season is nearing its end. Technology continues to destroy more jobs than it is creating. Back to “normal” jobs report and “poor” jobs report series, starting next month.

October Jobs Report Strong: It Is Just One Report

On November 6 (Friday), jobs report for October had the winds of 120 miles per hour and blew everyone away. Non-farm payrolls showed 271,000 jobs were added in October, the most gain since December and a huge beatdown on expectations of about 185,000. It’s the best month for job growth so far this year. The report follows two consecutive months (August and September) of weak jobs growth below 160,000.

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.

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

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.

Average Hourly Earnings and Average Weekly Hours
Average Hourly Earnings and Average Weekly Hours

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).

Unemployment Rate + Labor Force Participation Rate

More than 122 million Americans had full-time jobs at the end of October, the highest since December 2007 (121.6 million).

Full-Time and Part-Time Employment

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.

In March, the Fed expressed worries about the strength of the U.S. Dollar, just after the greenback hit above $100 mark. The greenback then tumbled and has never recovered back to $100….yet.

US Dollar ("/DX" on thinkorswim platform) - Daily
US Dollar (“/DX” on thinkorswim platform) – Daily

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.

Market Reactions:

US Dollar ("/DX" on thinkorswim platform) - Hourly
US Dollar (“/DX” on thinkorswim platform) – Hourly
S&P 500 Index ("SPX" on thinkorswim platform) - Hourly
S&P 500 Index (“SPX” on thinkorswim platform) – Hourly

Repulsive Jobs Report

Last Friday (October 2), jobs report for September came out way weaker than expected. Non-farm payrolls report shows 142K jobs were added, vs 200K expectations. Unemployment rate stood unchanged at seven-year low of 5.1%. Not only that, but wage gains stalled, labor force shrank, and July and August gains were revised lower.

July job gains were revised lower to 223K from 245K (-22K) and August job gains were revised lower to 136K from 173K (-37K), totaling downward revisions of 59K. Average jobs gains for third quarter is now at 167K, lower than the 2014 average of 260K. So far, job growth has averaged 198K a month this year, compared with an average gain of 260K a month the previous year.

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

Unemployment rate stayed at 5.1% only because people stopped looking for work. In other words, they lost confidence in the labor market. 350K people dropped out of the labor force which took labor force participation rate fell to 62.4%, the lowest in 38 years (1977), from 62.6% in the previous three months.

Labor Participation Rate (Source: @ReutersJamie)
Labor Participation Rate (Source: @ReutersJamie)

Wages also showed weakness. Average hourly earnings fell by a penny to $25.09 after rising 9 cents in September. The average workweek declined by 0.1 hour to 34.5 hours.

There are increased worries that global slowdown is weighing on the domestic economy. The repulsive jobs report knocked down the chances of a rate-hike for this year. Federal Funds Rate (FFR) shows less than 10% and less than 35% chance of rate hike in October and December, respectively. Regardless of weak jobs growth, I still expect 0.10% rate-hike this month. But, I don’t expect 25 basis points for the year. If 0.25% were nothing, the Fed would have raised it already. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will meet on Tuesday-Wednesday, October 27-28.

Weak jobs report seems to point out a weak third quarter GDP growth following a strong rebound in the 2nd quarter. According to final GDP report released on September 25, second quarter grew at an annual pace of 3.9%, vs previous estimate of 3.7%. Advance (1st estimate) GDP report for the third quarter will be released on Thursday, October 29.

In the first quarter, the economy grew only 0.6% because of strong U.S. dollar, low energy prices, West Coast port strike, and the bad weather. Well, winter is approaching. Who’s not to say that the weather will hamper the growth again? The dollar is still strong and the energy prices are still low.

Energy sector continues to struggle. The mining industry – which includes oil and natural-gas drillers — lost 10K jobs last month, totaling 102K losses of jobs since December 2014. Energy companies continue to layoff workers since low energy prices are hurting companies. Energy companies like Chesapeake Energy and ConocoPhillips continues to reduce its workforce and its operations, and cut capital expenditures to offset higher costs.

Earlier in September, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report showed that there were 5.8 million job openings in July, a series (series began in December 2000) record and higher than 5.4 million in May, as employers cannot find qualified workers.

It’s likely to get worse in the longer-term because of higher minimum wages. If employers pay higher wages, more people, especially teenagers, are likely to drop out and work. If states and companies continue to raise minimum wages, jobs that require skills such as programming, etc, will not be filled in the United States, but in countries with higher amount of education. That’s why recent minimum wage increases will batter, not help, the U.S. economy in the longer-term.

Reactions to the jobs report:

US markets fell immediately after the report, but rebounded later. 10-year Treasury yield fell below 2%, to the lowest level since April. US Dollar plunged, but recuperated about half of the losses later.

Standard & Poor 500 ETF ("SPY") - Hourly
Standard & Poor 500 ETF (“SPY”) – Hourly

 

10-Year Treasury Index ("TNX") - Hourly
10-Year Treasury Index (“TNX”) – Hourly

 

US Dollar ("/DX") - Hourly
US Dollar (“/DX”) – Hourly

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

U.S. Rate-Hike Impending – Tick Tock

Last Thursday (July 30, 2015), the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released its advance (1st estimate out of 3) of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the second quarter (April, May and June) of the year. It was positive enough to increase the chance of rate-hike in September significantly.


Before we go any further, let’s review what two types of GDP, nominal-dollar terms and real-dollar terms. Current (or nominal-dollar) GDP tallis the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S. using present prices. On the other hand, Real (or chained-dollar) GDP counts only the value of what was physically produced. To clarify the point, suppose a hat-making factory announces that it made $1 million selling hats this year, 11% more than last year. The $1 million represents nominal company sales (or current dollar). However, something is missing. From this future alone, it’s unclear how the factory achieved the extra income. Did it actually sell 11% more hats? Or did it sell the same number of hats as the year before but simply raised prices by 11%? If the factory made more money because it increased the price tag by 11%, then in real (constant-dollar) terms, the true volume of hats sold this year was no greater than last year, at $900,000.

It’s vital to know if the economy grew because the quantity of products sold was greater or whether it was largely the result of price hikes, or inflation. (Source: “The Secrets of Economic Indicators” by Bernard Baumohl)


Real GDP increased at a annualized rate of 2.3%, vs expectations of 2.5%.  This is a major acceleration from the first quarter when real GDP increased 0.6% (expansion), revised from -0.2% (contraction). The economy bounced back after a slow start in the beginning of the year.

Real GDP - Quarterly (1Q 2011-2Q 2015)
Real GDP – Quarterly (1Q 2011-2Q 2015)

In the beginning of the year, US economy was hurt, or “walked backwards” due to unfavorable weather, lower energy prices, West Port strike, and stronger dollar. While, the economy has moved beyond the weather and west port strike, – a strong dollar, and lower energy prices will continue to limit growth.

While first quarter was revised upwards, 2011-2014 was revised lower. The economy grew 1.6% in 2011, down from the 2.3% initial reading; 2.2% in 2012, up from the 1.5% initial reading; 1.5% in 2013, down from 1.7%; and 2.4% in 2014, down from 2.7%. From 2011 to 2014, growth was essentially weaker. The economy expanded by an average annual rate of 2%, below initial reading of 2.3%.

Real GDP - Annual (2011-2014)
Real GDP – Annual (2011-2014)

Growth in the second quarter was boosted by consumer spending. Consumer spending grew at a 2.9% rate from a 1.8% in the first quarter. That is a very good sign because real personal consumption expenditures (PFE) AKA consumer spending, accounts for 70% of total GDP. If people are not spending, it spells serious trouble for the economy.

Real exports increased 5.3% in the second quarter, compared to 6% fall in the first quarter. First quarter’s significant drop was due to west port slowdown. The strong dollar has hurt exports but its effects have eased recently…for now. Port delays in the first quarter freed up exports and temporarily increased exports.

Business investment fell 0.6% in the second quarter, from previous 1.6% increase in the first quarter, as energy companies continue to scale back projects amid low oil prices.

Recently, crude oil prices have fallen back to the Earth. On Monday, August 3, crude oil prices hit just above $45 (currently below $45). It will continue to hurt energy companies, causing them to scale back projects and lay-offs. Low gasoline prices, however, would lead consumers to spend money. It’s better to pay off debts first before spending money on “wants”.

Crude Oil ("/CL" on thinkorswim) - Daily
Crude Oil (“/CL” on thinkorswim) – Daily

On Friday (July 31, 2015), Employment Cost Index (ECI) report for the second quarter was released and it was disappointing.

ECI, a broad measure of workers’ wages and benefits, increased 0.2%, smallest gain since records began in the second quarter of 1982, following 0.7% increase in the first quarter. Wages and salaries, which accounts of 70% of compensation costs, also increased 0.2% in the second quarter, the smallest gain on record.

Employment Cost Index (ECI) - Bloomberg Terminal
Employment Cost Index (ECI) – Bloomberg Terminal

The report suggests that slack remains in the labor market.  The unemployment rate fell to 5.3% in June – the lowest level since April 2008 – close to the Fed’s target of 5% to 5.2%, which the Fed policy makers consider consistent full employment.

S&P 500’s reaction to both GDP and ECI reports.

S&P 500 ("SPX" on thinkorswim) - Hourly
S&P 500 (“SPX” on thinkorswim) – Hourly

Dollar’s reaction to both GDP and ECI reports.

US Dollar ("/DX" on thinkorswim) - Hourly
US Dollar (“/DX” on thinkorswim) – Hourly

The Federal Reserve are counting on rising wages to boost both the economy and inflation (2% target). On Wednesday, July 29, the Fed said it won’t start lifting rates until there is “some further improvement in the labor market and is reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent objective over the medium term.”

The Fed is monitoring employment, inflation, and wages closely as it moves to closer to raising interest rates from near zero, for the first time since the recession. Raising rates too soon or too late can have its consequences.

The Fed will meet on September 16 and 17. I still believe the Fed will raise rates. If employment, inflation and wage reports are not very strong until September meeting, the Fed might raise the rates by little as 0.10% (10 basis points), instead of 0.25%.

I believe the disappointment of ECI is temporary as more companies are starting to increases wages and more people are slowly entering jobs market. I also believe that GDP continues to be strong. In fact, I believe current Q2 GDP will be revised higher. Preliminary (2nd estimate) of Q2 GDP will be released on Thursday, August 27.

On Friday (August 7), important reading data of US economy will be released, non-farm payrolls AKA jobs report. My guess for employment and unemployment rate is 285K and 5.4%, respectively. I believe wages will stay flat at this time and accelerate in the next few months.

I will take advantage of any pullback in the greenback (US Dollar). Greenback has a room to strengthen more. Currency pairs such as USD/JPY, USD/CAD, I would be long, and I would be short EUR/USD. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me and/or leave comments below. Thank you.

Disappointing Jobs Report – Bye Bye July Rate-Hike

Last Thursday (July 2, 2015), non-farm payrolls report for June for disappointing. 223,000 jobs were added in June, vs expectations of 231,000, compared with an average monthly gain of 250,000 over the last 12 months. Although payrolls grew slightly, the unemployment rate ticked lower to 5.3% from 5.5%. While this may sound to be a good thing, it is not.

Unemployment rate fell due largely to a sharp decline in labor force participation, which fell by 0.3% point to 62.6%, the lowest level since October 1977. Decline in labor force participation shows more people were discouraged by the poor employment prospects that he/she is not actively seeking employments. Therefore, they are not reflected in the unemployment rate. Bottom line: they lost confidence in the jobs markets.

Revisions to the previous months’ job totals has been negative. April fell from 221,000 to 187,000 (-34,000) and May fell from 280,000 to 254,000 (-26,000), bringing losses of 60,000.

Total Non-Farm Payrolls – Monthly Net Change – 2014-Present
Total Non-Farm Payrolls – Monthly Net Change – 2014-Present

Job gains/loss:

Professional/Business services: +64,000. I believe it was largely due to college students who recently graduated or got a job while in school.

Health care: +40,000. ObamaCare continues to boost earnings for health care industry. Recently, health care stocks have been hitting all-time highs.

Retail: +33,000. Well it is summer, isn’t? It’s no wonder more jobs were added in retail.

Restaurants/Bars/etc: +30,000. One word, Summer.

Mining: -4,000. Oil decline has been hitting energy industry hard. Total decline in the industry now stands at 70,000.

While employment numbers are important to the Fed to justify the time to begin normalizing policy, I believe wage growth and Consumer Price Index (CPI) are more important. July rate-hike is off the table largely because wages remained flat. Average hourly earnings in the private sector stood at $24.95, unchanged from May and up 2% from a year earlier.

Average Hourly Earnings - 2014 to Present
Average Hourly Earnings – 2014 to Present

On July 17, CPI report for June will be released at 8:30 AM EST. It will be very important to watch for it. Any spending reports such as Retail Sales will also be important to watch out for because consumer spending makes up 70% of all economic activity. Retail sales account for one-third of it.

I strongly believe September rate liftoff is possible. If future CPI, average hourly earnings, and employment fall in any way, chance of liftoff in September will be reduced.

Following the release of the report on Thursday, US markets were mixed while US Dollar was down. US markers were closed due to 4th of July holiday. The United States is 239 years old.

Standard & Poor 500 ( “SPX” on ThinkorSwim platform) – Hourly
Standard & Poor 500 ( “SPX” on ThinkorSwim platform) – Hourly
US Dollar ( “/DX” on ThinkorSwim platform) – Hourly
US Dollar ( “/DX” on ThinkorSwim platform) – Hourly

 

Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. You can leave a comment and contact me on this website, google plus, twitter, and linkedin. Thank you.

Jobs Report Surprises To The Upside – IMF Wrong? (You Decide)

Last Friday (May 5, 2015), Bureau of Labor Statistics released non-farm payrolls (jobs report) for May and it was way beyond expectations. 280,000 jobs were added in May (largest since December) vs. expectations around 225,000. It’s a strong sign that the US economy is recovering from the contraction that occurred in first quarter of 2015 (January-March).

Total Non-Farm Payrolls - Monthly Net Change (June 7, 2015)
Total Non-Farm Payrolls – Monthly Net Change – 2014-Present

 

The unemployment rate ticked higher by 0.1% to 5.5% from 5.4%, as more people are entering labor force (because their confidence in the jobs market are increasing). In May, 397,000 people entered labor force, mostly recent college graduates.

Average hourly earnings increased 0.3% on month-to-month basis from 0.1% in April. Over the year, it increased 2.3%, largest rise since August 2013. It’s indication that future consumer spending will increase. When consumers spend more money, companies generate more money and eventually hire more people. Basically, it’s a short-term demand in the economy.

March and April numbers were revised. March was revised from 85,000 to 119,000 (+34,000) and April revised from 223,000 to 221,000 (-2,000).

There were big increases in employment in professional and business services (+63,000), leisure and hospitality (+57,000), and healthcare (+47,000). Meanwhile, employment in mining fell for the fifth month in a row (-17,000) as low energy prices continues to hurt energy companies.

This is the most important US economic report because it shows how first quarter, which contracted 0.7%, are due to transitory factors and guides the Federal Reserve on the path of raising the interest rates. As a result of strong jobs report, June rate-hike door is not closed. Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will be meeting on Tuesday, June 16, and Wednesday, June 17. At 2 PM EST, economic projections, statement and federal funds rate will be released followed by 2:30 PM EST press conference. The markets will be extremely violent during the time because it’s highly watched by investors and traders.

After the release of the report, US Dollar (USD) rose. USD against JPY (Yen) soared to a new 13-year high. US markets were mixed as investors/traders differently interpret what the jobs reports means for the future.

 

S&P 500 Index (SPX) - Hourly
S&P 500 Index (SPX) – Hourly
USD/JPY - Hourly
USD/JPY – Hourly

 

The day before the jobs report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) slashed its forecasts for US economic growth and called for the Fed to hold off its first rate increase until the first half of 2016. The IMF said a series of negative shocks, including unfavorable weather, a sharp contraction in oil sector investment, the West Coast port strike, and the effects of the stronger dollar, hindered the first quarter of 2015. Thus, it promoted a downgrade to its growth expectations to 2.5% for this year, from 3.1% in April.

Economic Forecasts Souce: http://www.imf.org/external/np/ms/2015/060415.htm
Economic Forecasts
Souce: http://www.imf.org/external/np/ms/2015/060415.htm

IMF says that FOMC should remain data dependent and act after signs of a pickup in wages and inflation. Well, the jobs report for May was positive, including wages. So is IMF wrong? Did they talk too early? You decide.

In IMF’s view, “raising rates too soon could trigger a greater-than-expected tightening of financial conditions or a bout of financial instability, causing the economy to stall. This would likely force the Fed to reverse direction, moving rates back down toward zero with potential costs to credibility.” —- “raising rates too late could cause an acceleration of inflation above the Fed’s 2 percent medium-term objective with monetary policy left having to play catch-up. This could require a more rapid path upward for policy rates with unforeseen consequences, including for financial stability.”

So when is the right time to raise rates? I believe it’s in July or September (no meeting in August) only if we continue to see pickup in wages, employment, and Consumer Price Index (CPI). Even through the chance of rate hike in June is very low, I would not be surprised if Fed decides to hike rates. Even if they do, it will be surprising to most people at Wall Street and markets will definitely be violent – I would consider it “mini-SNB” (SNB – Swiss National Bank), because of SNB’s action in January (unscheduled release – removing the cap on euro-franc).

Feel free to contact me by going to “Contact Me” above or leave your comments below. Twitter: @Khojinur30. Thank you.

 

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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Ugly Jobs Report Is Just Temporary

Last Friday (April 3, 2015), March non-farm payrolls came out very negative. Non-farm payrolls slowed in March to a seasonally adjusted 126,000, slowest since December 2013. Unemployment rate held unchanged at 5.5%. The downturn in the jobs report could delay the Federal Reserve’s plan on raising the interest rates. Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) have said in the past that continued improvement in labor would be a key factor on the timing of the rate-hike. I, now, believe there is a little chance of rate-hike in June.

What caused the downturn in the labor market? I believe it was because of the bad weather, plunging oil prices, and the strong dollar. The bad weather have caused businesses, especially in construction, to lose profits and to halt hiring. However, weather is a transitory factor. Plunging oil prices have left the oil industry in the dust. Oil companies are not being able to make revenue/profit. As a result, they had to layoff some of their employees. Strong Dollar is putting pressure on export-driven manufacturers, resulting in lower sales leading to layoffs. It’s also making it harder for U.S. businesses to sell goods aboard. I believe majority of U.S businesses’ revenue or earning per share (EPS) will less than expected, for the quarter.

Not only did we get to see March jobs report, but there were revisions to February and January jobs reports. January job creation was revised lower to 201,000 from 239,000 (-38,000). February job creation was revised lower to 264,000 from 295,000 (-31,000). I believe March jobs report will also be revised.

The labor-force participation rate was at 67.8%, lowest since February 1978. It shows that there’s less confidence in jobs market. Therefore, people have stopped looking for jobs. Average hourly earnings rose 7 cents or 0.3% to $24.86. The earnings can be a indicator for inflation. If it increases, inflation is more likely to increase too. Walmart and McDonald are increasing wages for majority of its employees, if not all of them.

Reactions to the report:

U.S Dollar (foreign exchange, or Forex) reacted negatively. U.S Equity markets were closed for Good Friday. We will get to see the reaction of equity market in the morning (Monday, April 7, 2015). I believe it will rise since negative jobs report could delay the rate-hike, since low interest-rate environment can very attractive to investors, including me.

 

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Fed removes “patient”, and adds twists

Last Wednesday (March 18, 2015), the Federal Reserve released its statement on the monetary policy and its economic projections. The The Fed dropped from its guidance “patient” in reference to its approach to raising the federal funds rate. It was largely to be expected to be removed, which would have send U.S Dollar higher and U.S market lower. However, the opposite happened because of two twists; they lowered their economic projections, and Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Janet Yellen’s words during the press conference.

According to the “dot plot”, the Fed lowered median “dot” for 2015 to 0.625% from 1.125% (December). What is “dot plot”? The Dot Plot is part of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC)’s economics projections and it shows what each member thinks the federal funds rate should be in the future. It is released quarterly. Sometimes, it might be released more than that, depending on economic circumstances. It gives you a perspective of what each member of FOMC thinks about economic and monetary conditions in the future.

Again, the Fed lowered median “dot” for the end of 2015 to 0.625% from 1.125% in December (-0.50%). The Fed also lowered the “dot” for end of 2016 and 2017. For the end of 2016, it is at 1.875% from 2.5% in December (-0.625%). For the end of 2017, it is at 3.125% from 3.625% in December (-0.50%). Besides, the “dot”, Yellen said one thing that took a toll on the U.S Dollar.

Even though the Fed removed “patient” from the statement, Yellen had “patient” tone during the press conference. Yellen said ““Just because we removed the word “patient” from the statement does not mean we are going to be impatient,”. This sentence alone halted US Dollar from rebounding after it dropped on the statement. There are other things that complicates the timing of the rate-hike.

It’s now more complicated to predict the Fed’s next move because of three reasons; very strong US Dollar, low inflation, and economic crisis in Europe and Japan, if not United Kingdom too. US Dollar is too strong, hurting U.S exports. Inflation has declined due to falling energy prices. The struggling foreign countries economically can also hurt U.S economy. I believe two majors factor of the Fed’s next move are the strong US Dollar, and the low inflation. When both of them are combined together, it makes imports cheaper and keeps inflation lower. I believe Europe will start to get better–as Quantitative Easing (QE) fully kicks in–money starts flowing in Europe. European stocks will probably hit new highs in the coming years because of QE program. Once, the Fed raises the rates, the money will probably flow into Europe from the U.S because of negative interest rates. Low rates have been a key driver of the bull markets in the U.S stock market the past six years. Lower rates makes stocks more attractive to the investors.

Since, the “dot” has dropped harshly, I believe this could be a sign of late delivery of rate hike. They might hike the interest rate in September, not June. However, if non-farm payrolls number continue to be strong, average wage (indicator for inflation) lifts and oil prices rebound, then the door for rate-hike for June might still be open. For now, there is no sign of oil rebounding since it has dropped sharply this week. We will get the next non-farm payroll, which also includes average wage, on April 3.

In the statement, FOMC stated “The Committee anticipates that it will be appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate when it has seen further improvement in the labor market and is reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent objective over the medium term. This change in the forward guidance does not indicate that the Committee has decided on the timing of the initial increase in the target range.”

The Fed want to be cautions before raising the interest rates. They want more time to be sure; “further improvement in the labor market” and “reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent…” Although, non-farm payrolls have been strong lately, inflation is too low. The inflation is low because of the stronger dollar and the plunge in oil prices.

The Fed is in no hurry to increase the interest rate. The Fed said it would definitely not act on rates at “…April FOMC meeting.” and might wait until later in the year. I believe September has higher chance than June, from the rate-hike.

It looks to me that the Fed planned to send US Dollar lower. They probably wanted the US Dollar to be weaker before raising the rates, which could send the US Dollar a lot higher. Their plan worked. The US Dollar dropped so much that it sent EUR/USD (Euro against US Dollar) up 400 pips (above 1.10). U.S market rose after they were down ever since the release of non-farm payrolls for February. Dow gained over 200 points, as well as other indices.

 

Dow Jones (DJI) - 30 Mins
Dow Jones (DJI) – 30 Mins
US Dollar - 30 Mins
US Dollar – 30 Mins
EUR/USD - 30 Mins
EUR/USD – 30 Mins

 

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