Stocks flattish ahead of US jobs report
A decline in US weekly jobless claims to their lowest level since the pandemic began was greeted by new record highs on Wall Street. To be fair, just about anything is greeted by a new all-time high. Initial claims came in at 340k for the week ended August 28th, versus expectations of 345k, and the lowest since March 2020. But it wasn’t all good news. The total number of continuing claims in the week ending August 14th was 12,186,158, an increase of 178,526 from the previous week. Meanwhile, while that ADP number on Wednesday was a big miss, and as noted here before, the report is not a great predictor for the nonfarms. Indeed, lately, it’s been spectacularly inaccurate. Elsewhere, US durables orders ex-defence were –1.1% month-on-month, while factory orders ex-transport +0.8% vs +1.4% in the prior month.
Today’s nonfarm payrolls are the main event. The Federal Reserve has tied monetary policy tightly to the labour market and is yet to see the ‘substantial further progress’ it requires to start tapering bond purchases, let alone raise rates. Therefore, the pace of job creation will give markets a signal as to the pace and timing of the Fed’s long-expected taper. Expectations are running around 720k for today’s print.
Ahead of the jobs data, China’s slowdown is striking a downbeat note for risk this morning. Caixin’s services PMI slid into contraction, hitting 46.7, its lowest reading since April 2020. Meanwhile, there is a report saying that the highly indebted Chinese real estate beast Evergrande is facing demands from creditors for immediate payback. A useful thread on the situation can be read here.
European markets opened broadly lower though the FTSE is making some headway of sorts. The Nikkei 225 jumped 2% on the prospect of yet more stimulus as PM Suga resigned over the handling of the pandemic outbreak. Elsewhere the dollar keeps softer and gold consolidates above $1,800 with Treasury yields holding at 1.30%. Oil is steady with WTI a little under the $70 mark it breached in a strong rally yesterday following the EIA inventory draw and the record implied demand.
Stagflation: Following revisions to Q3 GDP estimates by Goldman and Bank of America, the Atlanta Fed slashed its GDP forecast to 3.7% from 5.3%. At the same time, Morgan Stanley cut its estimate for the third quarter expansion to just 2.9% from 5.3%. The Atlanta Fed update incorporated the latest auto sales – Ford reported yesterday that its sales fell by a third in August from last year due in large part to the chip shortage. GM will idle most of its North American factories in September as a result of the semi-conductor problem.
Energy prices are soaring – particularly natural gas, particularly in Europe. “Let me calm a little bit the language of crisis,” Beatriz Yordi, director of carbon at the European Commission said. “We don’t expect it’s going to be a lasting situation.” Transitory, always transitory…And this is when Europe is warm – prices tend to spike in the cold weather, not the summer. Storage data showed a rise in stocks but the market remains tight. Working gas in storage was 2,871 Bcf as of Friday, August 27th, according to EIA estimates. This represents a net increase of 20 Bcf from the previous week. Stocks were 579 Bcf less than last year at this time and 222 Bcf below the five-year average of 3,093 Bcf.