The two most important consensus numbers:
- US Unemployment Rate (Jan) Exp. 6.7% (Low 6.5%, High 6.9%), Prev. 6.7%, Nov. 7.0%
- US Change in Nonfarm Payroll (Jan) Exp. 180K (Low 105K, High 270K), Prev. 74K, Nov. 241K
Broken down by bank:
- HSBC 171K
- Barclays 175K
- Citigroup 180K
- Bank of America 185K
- Deutsche Bank 200K
- UBS 200K
- Goldman Sachs 200K
- JP Morgan 205K
Today sees the release of the nonfarm payrolls report for January, which follows Decembers’s large miss on expectations at 74k versus a consensus of 197k. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has acknowledged that weather conditions had a significant effect on last month’s reading. Ahead of the polar vortex in the US, adverse weather kept 273k employed workers at home (versus a 10-year average of 166k) and temperatures remained lower than average in January, particularly in the first half of the month. The market reaction to another low reading may therefore be subdued, if it is believed to be representative of weather effects rather than economic fundamentals.
Wednesday saw a relatively strong, albeit lower than expected reading of the ADP report (175K vs. Exp. 185K), often considered to be a strong indicator of NFP because of the two data points’ methodological similarities. However, last month’s reading showed 238k, which versus an NFP reading of 74k represented the largest discrepancy between the two readings since Moody’s began compiling the figure in 2012; the average miss between the two releases is 50k. In terms of other data points, although this week’s ISM manufacturing missed expectations the major regional manufacturing surveys from New York, Philadelphia and Chicago were all better than expected, and the ISM non-manufacturing reading was also higher than consensus, with the employment component rising to 56.4 (prev. 55.6).
In terms of the unemployment figure, last month’s drop from 7.0% to 6.7% was the largest decline since December 2010. Consensus currently points to an unchanged reading this month, however, the figure may be influenced by the expiration of emergency unemployment benefits at the end of December. A proportion of the 1.3mln people whose benefits came to an end will have left the labour force if unable to find work, which if proved true could have the effect of reducing the unemployment rate.
With the Fed now seemingly on a USD 10bln per-month tapering path, participants may view the central bank as less likely to be influenced by the report than previous months unless the reading falls far short, or far exceeds expectations.
As a result, a strong reading indicative of a healthy labour market will likely see a knee-jerk reaction higher in US equities and the USD, and downside in Treasuries and gold. A reading largely influenced by weather conditions in January could mean the initial fast-money moves will fail to be sustained, although a large beat is likely to support the view of another taper by the FOMC at their next meeting in March. Another drop in the unemployment rate, which would edge closer to the Fed's 6.5% unemployment threshold for the first Fed funds rate hike, is unlikely to cause an aggressive shift towards the view of a near-term rate hike due to the fact the Fed continue to reiterate that the Fed will maintain accommodative policy for some-time to come yet.