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Market Update

Hiring Freeze? Weak Job Data Complicates Fed Picture, Sends Stocks Lower

October 2, 2015

Stocks fell Friday after the latest snapshot of U.S. job growth shocked many with its wide shortfall in expected September hiring. That came on top of downward revisions to recent payrolls tallies.

In response, investors shifted near term into bonds. That drove the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield below 2%, now sitting near 1.94%. Interest rate markets are resetting short-term expectations for monetary policy. The weak report once again raises uncertainty that the Federal Reserve has the economic cover it desires to unwind what has been overly accommodative interest rate policy in place for years.

As for the broad-based S&P 500 (SPX), chart watchers stress the importance of holding support at 1896.

According to Labor Department stats, the U.S. economy created just 142,000 new jobs last month. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.1%, though more people dropped out of the labor force. Street economists generally looked for 200,000-203,000 new jobs in September; they expected the unemployment rate to hold at a seven-year-low 5.1%. Employment gains for August and July were revised down by a combined 59,000; 136,000 new jobs were created in August instead of 173,000, while July's gain was cut to 223,000 from 245,000. The labor-force participation rate slid to 62.4% from 62.6%, as 350,000 people dropped out of the labor force. That's the lowest level since October 1977.

Wage data is also confounding many economists this morning. The average hourly wage paid to American workers was basically unchanged in September. The typical worker earned $25.09 an hour last month, down a penny from August. From September 2014 to September 2015, hourly wages rose 2.2%. Compare that to other economic growth cycles: annualized increases in pay have stuck to a tight range of 1.9% to 2.2% since 2012, according to MarketWatch. That’s not typical at this stage of a recovery, especially when other economic signs point up.

Other data, including the regular Thursday release of weekly jobless benefits data, continued to show improving job-market conditions. With the latest figures, the level of new claims remains below 300,000. Claims fell below that line in early March and have remained there for 30 straight weeks—a feat last accomplished in 1973, when the nation’s working population was 40% smaller, Market Watch notes.

No doubt, these reports are one factor that will likely heat up the Fed’s interest rate talks later this month and in December.


A one-year view of the S&P 500 (SPX) charted on the new-look thinkorswim® platform shows this week’s recovery to back above 1900. Post-jobs report, chart watchers said key support comes into play at 1896. Data source: Standard & Poor’s. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

The Fed Says … Late Thursday (of course before he saw the jobs report), San Francisco Fed President John Williams said the central bank could raise interest rates as soon as October if economic data continues to improve. During a speech in Salt Lake City he said the September meeting was a “very close call,” according to media coverage of the event. “When you have a close decision like that, it doesn’t take a lot of information to tip the balance,” Williams said after the speech, according to financial media. “I would view October to be a completely live meeting,” he said. A Boston Fed conference taking place on Friday features speeches or panel appearances by several members.

Job Cuts Here: Advanced Micro Devices. AMD announced it will cut 5% of its workforce in a restructuring, with some 500 estimated to be on the chopping block at the chip maker. It’s the second round of job cuts in the last year. Under a new CEO since late last year, AMD cut revenue expectations in July and continues to work out its role in the evolving personal computer market.

Telecom in Focus. Shares of T-Mobile US (TMUS) could be active after a reported data breach has affected millions of customers’ personal data information at the credit-reporting firm Experian (EXPN) that TMUS uses. Elsewhere, Sprint Corp. (S) could be cutting as much as $2.5 billion in costs, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a staff memo. The memo said the cuts “inevitably will result in job reductions.”

Good trading,

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