Morning Report – Jobs Day 02/01/13

Vital Statistics:

  Last Change Percent
S&P Futures  1501.6 8.3 0.56%
Eurostoxx Index 2707.2 4.2 0.16%
Oil (WTI) 97.39 -0.1 -0.10%
LIBOR 0.296 -0.003 -0.84%
US Dollar Index (DXY) 79.06 -0.144 -0.18%
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.99% 0.01%  
RPX Composite Real Estate Index 193.1 -0.2  

Futures are higher this morning after Jan payroll data.  157k jobs were added in January and the unemployment rate ticked up .1% to 7.9%.  Separately, there is a slew of economic data this morning. The University of Michigan consumer confidence rose to 73.8, construction spending rose .9% in Dec, and the ISM manufacturing survey rose to 53.1 from 50.7, a big upside surprise.  Both bonds and stock have found something to like in the data and are rallying.

The internals of the job report show that construction employment has been accelerating during what should be a seasonally slow period.  Weekly hours dropped. The labor force participation rate was unchanged at 63.6%. The BLS also made some revisions and adjustments to the historical numbers, which had the effect of increasing job creation during the past year and increasing the size of the labor force. It also means that some historical comparisons are not “apples to apples.” The market is focusing on the 7.9% unemployment number because that is what is driving the Fed at the moment. Overall, it was a mixed report, showing the labor market is improving, albeit slowly.

Chart:  US Unemployment Rate:

St Louis Fed President James Bullard says that unemployment in the “low 7s” could cause the Fed to end QE. 

Lender Processing Services has put out its January Mortgage Monitor. They show that foreclosure sales are at the lowest level since March of 2009, although starts are beginning to tick up again. Speaking of foreclosures, CoreLogic reported 56,000 foreclosures in November (a 3% YOY drop).  Pre-bubble run rates are closer to 21k.  Approximately 1.2 million homes were in the national foreclosure inventory at the end of 2012, which is a 20% decrease from the prior year. 

As home prices increase, more and more previously underwater homeowners are becoming eligible to refinance – LPS estimates the number could be 4 million.  Which means that in spite of rising interest rates, the refi boom may still have some legs.

Is cheap energy the answer to the problem of offshoring?  Nucor is building a new plant in Louisiana, after sending production to Trinidad.  The reason?  Cheap natural gas as a result of fracking.  Will it make much of a dent in unemployment?  Probably not, as it will only employ 150 people who will make on average $75k. Manufacturing is increasingly hiring highly paid skilled workers and not the unskilled. That said, the oil and gas industry does have a need for unskilled labor. 

Bill Gross says the rise in unemployment is giving the bond market a “period of rest”, meaning there is room for a bond market rally. He is recommending the 5 year and is avoiding duration as he believes that QE has made the bond market “bubbly.” It will be interesting to see what the bursting of that bubble will do to the economy. 

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