Inured to the bad news

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By: Andria Pichidi

The markets are relatively inured to the bad news, as the weekly jobless claims have already given us the increasingly ugly news on the labor market. US equities are modestly weaker amid risk-off sentiment and an employment report that revealed a much larger than anticipated -701k plunge in March and a jump in the jobless rate to 8.7% from 7.0%.

Meanwhile, the Dollar showed mixed reaction to the employment report. These numbers were worse than expected, though shouldn’t really be a surprise given the more timely surge in jobless claims figures seen the past two weeks. USDJPY initially fell to 108.25 before turning back up again at 108.60, while EURUSD fell to 1.0780 from 1.0800.  USDCHF extended gains up to 0.9794, reversing nearly 76% of the decline seen since March 20.

EURUSD concurrently carved out a 9-day low at 1.0774, making this the 5th consecutive day of lower lows while extending the correction from the 17-day high that was seen last Friday at 1.1148. The pair still remains above the low seen during the recent Dollar liquidity crunch, at 1.0637, before the Fed and other central banks stepped in to try and satiate the demand for cash dollars. Its overall outlook meanwhile, remains negative, with the asset extending well below all 3 daily SMAs and with its daily momentum indicators negatively configured. Hence the Dollar bid looks to hold.

The March establishment and household employment surveys captured more of the early layoffs than the markets had assumed, with massive declines for payrolls and hours-worked, big drops for civilian employment, the labor force, and the participation rate, and the start of the upward march for the jobless rate. Wages were also firm, likely due to the concentration of job loss among lower-paid workers.

The specifics: March nonfarm payrolls dropped -701k after February’s 275k increase (was 273k), which ended a 9.5 year run of employment gains. The employment in the goods-producing sector fell -54k from the 57k (was 61k) rise. Service sector jobs slumped -659k after rising 185k (was 167k) in February. Leisure/hospitality jobs plunged -459k from the prior 45k (was 51k) increase. Education/health care jobs were down -76k versus a 65k (was 54k) increase previously. Government jobs edged up 12k, with 18k added to the Federal payroll. The unemployment rate jumped to 4.4% (4.38%) from 3.5%. Average hourly earnings rose 0.4% versus the prior 0.3% gain.

The weakness captured in the mid-month March jobs report may prompt downward revisions in the Q1 GDP estimate, on the assumption that the Quarter may capture more of the economic plunge than previously assumed.

Beyond the timing of Q1 versus Q2 growth figures, however, the surprise in today‘s report is more the degree to which the surveys captured late-March events than the magnitude of declines, since the bulk of the jobs loss will still be captured in the surveys for April.

Since the Fed is already in maximum easing mode, it is unlikely that reports like today‘s will alter the monetary policy path.


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