Many seem to believe that if we worked our way out of debt problems in the past, we can do the same thing again. The same assets may have new owners, but everything will work together in the long run. Businesses will continue operating, and people will continue to have jobs. We may have to adjust monetary policy, or perhaps regulation of financial institutions, but that is about all. I think this is where the story goes wrong. The situation we have now is very different, and far worse, than what happened in the past. We live in a much more tightly networked economy. This time, our problems are tied to the need for cheap, high quality energy products. The comfort we get from everything eventually working out in the past is false comfort.
With a 9 standard deviation range between the highest and lowest excuse for a forecast from the 81 "qualified" economists on Bloomberg's survey, there is plenty of room for noise to dominate signal with tomorrow's payrolls data. Goldman forecasts a softer-than-consensus 210k increase in non-farm-payrolls as May employment data flow looks more mixed, and they expect that the unemployment rate rose two-tenths to 6.5% in May (vs. consensus 6.4%). Average hourly earnings (AHE) are likely to be in focus again following several months of heightened attention to wage growth and labor market slack; Goldman expects an increase of 0.2% in May (vs. consensus 0.2%).
It took a precisely 0.1 beat in the Chinese Manufacturing PMI over the weekend (50.8 vs Exp. 50.7) for the USDJPY and the Nikkei to forget all about last week's abysmal Japanese economic data and to send the Nikkei soaring by 2.1% to its highest print in 5 months. Subsequent overnight weakness from Europe, where the Eurozone Final May Manufacturing PMI dropped again from 52.5 to 52.2, below the 52.5 expected, served simply to push bunds higher back over 147.00, if not do much to US equities which as usual continue their low volume "the music is still playing" melt-up completely dislocated from all newsflow and fundamentals (because just like over the past 5 years, "there is hope").
The consensus for tomorrow's non-farm payrolls print is 218k (and ranges from 155k to 292k across the 94 "economists" surveyed by Bloomberg. Goldman forecasts 220k - around consensus - thanks to the long-awaited full normalization of weather conditions in April which could provide some additional boost. In addition, the employment components of all ten major business surveys released so far improved in April, in each case to a level consistent with increased employment. They expect that the unemployment rate declined to 6.6% in April and a 0.2% increase in average hourly earnings (AHE). Wages will be the object of much attention following a flat read on AHE in March, likely reflecting the unwinding of weather distortions
- Sensitive Market Data Leaked After Government Phone Call (WSJ)
- This is a actual Bloomberg headline: China Fake Data to Skew More Export Numbers (BBG)
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- Australian PM says searchers confident of position of MH370's black boxes (Reuters)
- Gross Says El-Erian Should Explain Reason for Exit (BBG)
Goldman Sachs forecasts a 200k increase in non-farm payrolls for March - in line with consensus - and believe last month's 175k print supports the ongoing positive trend (in light of the weather effect). Key employment indicators looked mixed-to-better in March, and despite the continued cold temperatures, less extreme weather conditions overall should give an additional boost to job gains this month. Citi suggests the weather could have knocked 172k off payrolls overall from Dec to Jan and are more hopeful, expecting a 240k print. Their biggest fear, a greater than 275k print (which is the high bar that Joe Lavorgna has set) could see asset markets reacting badly (on the basis of quicker Fed tightening).
It has been a relatively quiet overnight session, aside from the already noted news surrounding China's halt on virtual credit card payments sending Chinese online commerce stocks sliding, where despite an ongoing decline in the USDJPY which has sent the Nikkei plunging by 3.3% (and which is starting to impact Abe whose approval rating dropped in March by a whopping 5.6 points to 48.1% according to a Jiji poll), US equity futures have managed to stay surprisingly strong following yesterday's market tumble. We can only assume this has to do with short covering of positions, because we fail to see how anyone can be so foolhardy to enter risk on ahead of a weekend where the worst case scenario can be an overture to World War III following a Crimean referendum which is assured to result in the formal annexation of the peninsula by Russia.
Today's nonfarm payroll number is set to be a virtual non-event: with consensus expecting an abysmal print, it is almost assured that the real seasonally adjusted number (and keep in mind that the average February seasonal adjustment to the actual number is 1.5 million "jobs" higher) will be a major beat to expectations, which will crash the "harsh weather" narrative but who cares. Alternatively, if the number is truly horrendous, no problem there either: just blame it on the cold February... because after all what are seasonal adjustments for? Either way, whatever the number, the algos will send stocks higher - that much is given in a blow off top bubble market in which any news is an excuse to buy more. So while everyone is focused on the NFP placeholder, the real key event that nobody is paying attention to took place in China, where overnight China’s Shanghai Chaori Solar defaulted on bond interest payments, failing to repay CNY 89.9mln (USD 14.7mln), as had been reported here extensively previously. This marked the first domestic corporate bond default in the country's history - indicating a further shift toward responsibility and focus on moral hazard in China.
For all the chest-thumping from policymakers about the declining unemployment rate and increase in GDP growth in the second half of last year, these statistics are easily misread. More telling indicators, such as private domestic demand, haven’t picked up at all. Nor would you expect a robust recovery as long as employers create mostly lousy jobs. In the horse race between the real economy and the risk of financial instability, the real economy seems to be falling behind. Financial risks are growing steadily, as we discussed in “Tracking ‘Bubble Finance’ Risks in a Single Chart.” The real economy, on the other hand, is held back by weak income growth.
Take Ray Selent, a 30-year-old former retail clerk in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was unemployed in 2012 when he enrolled as a part-time student at Broward County's community college. That allowed him to borrow thousands of dollars to pay rent to his mother, cover his cellphone bill and catch the occasional movie... Tommie Matherne, a 32-year-old married father of five in Billings, Mont., has been going to school since 2010, when he realized the $10 an hour he was making as a mall security guard wasn't covering his family's expenses. He uses roughly $2,000 in student loans each year to stock his fridge and catch up on bills. "We've been taking whatever we can for student loans every year, taking whatever we have left over and using it to stock up the freezer just so we have a couple extra months where we don't have to worry about food,"... Mr. Selent, of Fort Lauderdale, knows he is getting himself deeper in a hole but prefers that to the alternative of making minimum wage. In his 20s, he earned a bachelor's degree in communications from a local for-profit school but couldn't find a job.... He is now taking courses for a degree in theater so he can become an actor.
While the Federal Reserve's interventions continue to create a wealth effect for market participants, it is something only enjoyed primarily by those at the upper end of the pay scale. For the rest of the country, the key issue is between the "have and have nots" - those that have a job and those that don't. While it is true that the country is creating jobs every month, the data may be suggesting it is "as good as it gets." Of course, this is a very disappointing statement when you consider that roughly 1 in 3 people sit outside of the workforce, 20% of the population uses food stamps, and 100 million people access some form of welfare assistance. The good news is, we aren't in a recession? Yet...
- HSBC 171K
- Barclays 175K
- Citigroup 180K
- Bank of America 185K
- Deutsche Bank 200K
- UBS 200K
- Goldman Sachs 200K
- JP Morgan 205K
This is an important jobs report. Not because it matters in the least whether the US economy added 170,000 new jobs or 185,000 new jobs. Not because it matters a whit whether the unemployment rate goes up or down 1/10th of 1 percent. No, the importance of this jobs report rests in two related linguistic games. Here's how to translate the lingo.... and then how to trade it.
Alarms are going off in assorted plunge protecting offices, now that the USDJPY has breached the 102.000 "fundamental" support level, below which the Yen can comfortably soar to sub 100.000 in perfectly even 100 pip increments. The first trading day of February has brought another weaker session across Asia though some equity indices such as the KOSPI (-1.1%) are in catch-up mode given they were shut towards the back-end of last week. Over the weekend, the Chinese government published its latest official manufacturing PMI which showed a 0.5pt drop to 50.5, a six-month low, and consistent with consensus estimates. DB’s Jun Ma believes there was some element of seasonality affecting this month’s result including the fact that Chinese New Year started at the end of January (vs February last year), anti-pollution measures in the lead up to CNY and efforts to control government consumption around the holiday period. The official service PMI was released overnight (53.4) which printed at the lowest level since at least 2011. The uninspiring Chinese data has not helped market sentiment this morning, with the Nikkei plunging -2% and ASX200 once again under pressure. S&P500 futures have fluctuated around the unchanged line this morning although if support below the USDJPY fail solidly, then watch out below. Markets in Mainland China and Hong Kong remain closed for Lunar New Year.
Nine Event Risks for the week ahead: identified, discussed and assessed.