Initial Jobless Claims
Following a week of crazy volatility, overnight exhausted markets took a breather.
Initial jobless claims dropped notably last week (from 285 to 269k) but the overall trend (away from the noise) appears in tact. The smoother4-week average remains near 12-month highs and as Goldman notes weakness is widespread - "there is only limited evidence that the rise in claims is due to distress in the energy sector." Continuing claims dropped modestly to 2.239mm but, as Goldman adds, "the persistence of the recent move suggests more might be going on, and we are treating the increase as more than just noise."
With China celebrating the Lunar New Year and offline until next weekend, and with the US in the usual post-payrolls macro newsflow lull, the markets will have more than enough time to stew in the latest source of contagion fears, namely Europe, the same Europe which until recently was fixed but is broken all over again.
Everything went from bad to worse once Europe opened, and things started going "bump in the morning" across the European banking sector, where not only has it been more of the same with CDS spreads for major banks - most notably Deutsche Bank - continuing their surge wider, but also EM spreads to Bunds all following, with the Portugal-Germany Yield spread blowing out above 300 bps for the first time since 2014, and other peripheral nations following.
US futures were largely unchanged overnight, with a modest bounce after the European close driven by a feeble attempt to push oil higher, faded quickly and as of this moment the E-mini was hugging the flatline ahead of today's main event - the January payrolls, expected to print at 190K and 5.0% unemployment, however the whisper number - that required to push stocks higher - is well lower, at 150K (according to DB), as only a bad (in fact very bad) jobs number today will cement the Fed's relent and assure no more rate hikes in 2016 as the market now largely expects.
Since the beginning of 2014, Initial jobless claims and Challenger Job Cuts have decoupled as the former "trended" in its seasonally adjusted manner while the latter appeared to reflect a different reality. That all changed in October last year as the trend in claims began to turn. Last week's jump to 285k dragged the less noisy 4-week average to 285k - the highest since March 2015 as initial claims begin to catch up to Challenger Job Cuts...
After yesterday's torrid, chaotic moves in the market, where an initial drop in stocks was quickly pared and led to a surge into the close after a weaker dollar on the heels of even more disappointing US data and Bill Dudley's "serious consequences" speech sent oil soaring and put the "Fed Relent" scenario squarely back on the table, overnight we have seen more global equity strength on the back of a weaker dollar, even if said weakness hurt Kuroda's post-NIRP world and the Nikkei erased virtually all losses since last Friday's surprising negative rate announcement. Oil and metals also rose piggybacking on the continued dollar weakness as the word's most crowded trade was suddenly shaken out.
After last week's relatively quiet, on macro data if not central bank news, week the newsflow picks up with the usual global PMI survey to start, and end the week with the US January payrolls report.
It is safe to say that nobody expected the BOJ stunner announced last night, when Kuroda announced that Japan would become the latest country to unleash negative interest rates, for one simple reason: Kuroda himself said Japan would not adopt negative rates just one week ago! However, a few BIS conference calls since then clearly changed the Japanese central banker's mind and as we wrote, and as those who are just waking up are shocked to learn, negative rates are now a reality in Japan. The immediate reaction was to send the USDJPY surging by nearly 200 pips, back to levels seen... well, about a month ago.
Having surged to six-month highs, initial jobless claims dropped modestly on the week but the smoother 4-week average that is broadly used pushed to new cycle highs at 285k - the highest since March 2015 confirming The Fed's concerns over the economy. This is a trend that is certainly not the friend of Janet and her friends... but we are sure this is all just transitory.
Following the Fed's disappointing "dovish, but not dovish enough" statement which effectively admitted Yellen had committed policy error by hiking just as the US economy "was slowing down" which in turn lowered the odds of a March rate hike to just 18%, it was up to oil to pick up the correlation torch, and so it did, rising in an otherwise mixed session which has seen European stocks slide on continued weakness surrounding Italian banks, many of which have been halted limit down, while Asia was treading water following news of the resignation of Japan’s "Abenomics" minister Akira Amari to over a graft scandal, and yet another day of Chinese stock dropping.
Following a rerun of September 2015, when Draghi sent market expectations about ECB action sky-high only to massively disappoint in December (we will have to wait until March to see if it is deja vu all over again) last week, this week is just as big for central bank jawboning with the FOMC (Wednesday) and the BoJ meeting on Friday, with hopes that they will at least hint of more easing if not actually do much.
"There is hope of more stimulus in March and potential for even more stimulus in Japan and China, so if we get concrete positive economic news the rebound could last into next week,” said John Plassard, senior equity- sales trader at Mirabaud Securities. “I told my clients to fasten their seatbelts and wait for better news, and this is finally happening."... "The turnaround in sentiment came amid signs central banks may be prepared to act after $7.8 trillion was erased from the value of global equities this year on China’s slowdown and oil’s crash."
The last 4 months have seen a notable change in the jobless claims regime. After ratcheting lower week after week for 5 years, initial jobless claims have risen from 42 year lows at 243k in October to 293k today. The first time we reached these levels was July 2014 and claims are rising at the fastest rate since the financial crisis. Crucially for those who look at 'record' low jobless claims as a positive, history tells us that is the time to worry as recessions loom on the upswing.