Week Ahead: Market pins hopes on strong NFP print

Morning Note

A new month brings a fresh nonfarm payrolls report. Markets will be hoping August’s big miss was just a fluke. Aussie and Kiwi central banks prep big statements too while OPEC+ gathers for its October policy talks. 

Tapering or no tapering, Friday’s nonfarm payrolls report is still a big one for the US. 

Markets will be looking to see if there’s a reversal of fortune in the American jobs market after August’s print fell way below expectations. NFPs totalled 275,000 for August, missing market expectations of 750,000 by a country mile. 

The unemployment rate had dropped a smidgen lower to 5.2% while labour force participation went unchanged at 61.7%. Hourly earnings rose 0.6% in August, surpassing market predictions of a 0.3% rise. 

We know that Jerome Powell and the Fed loves a strong jobs report. But we also know that regardless of September’s data tapering is on its way – likely in November. Of course, if this Friday’s report is truly shocking, that may cause a wrinkle in the Fed’s tapering plans, but all indicators suggest we’re on course for tapering soon. 

However, Fed Chair Powell still believes the US is still far from where he’d comfortably like employment to be. 

Speaking last week, Powell said: “What I said last week was that we had all but met the test for tapering. I made it clear that we are, in my view, a long way from meeting the test for maximum employment.” 

When will that come? According to a recent survey taken by the National Association for Business Economics, 67% of participating economists believe job levels will reach pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022. Just under a third believe job recovery won’t happen until 2023. 

There is a long road to recovery still to tread. We have seen, however, multiple instances across 2021 where nonfarm payrolls jump after a previous disappointing month. 

The leap from January to February, for example, saw a leap from -306,000 NFPs to +233,000. Nonfarm payrolls rose from 269,000 to 614,000 between April and May 2021. There is a precedent here.  

More than 7.5m Americans have also had their pandemic unemployment support snipped. $300 top-up payments were halted in early September as the government begins scaling back fiscal aid. Could this be a catalyst for more hires? Perhaps we’ll see in Friday’s nonfarm payrolls print. 

Away from the US, both major Antipodean central banks are due to make their most current rate statements this week. 

Starting with Australia, Governor Phillip Lowe and his colleagues seemed to move towards a more flexible policy at September’s Reserve Bank of Australia meeting. As such, markets aren’t anticipating any drastic changes in October. 

We saw rates stay as low as they have past year and a half in Australia. The RBA remains committed to fully committed to not raising the cash rate “until actual inflation is sustainably within the 2 to 3 per cent target range”. 

September’s statement did reveal some nuanced changes. 

The cash rate and three-year control rate all remained at 0.1% but the bond-buying programme taper wording did get a tweak. Originally, it was going to be reviewed no later than November, having been dropped down to AU$ 4bn per week in July. Now, it will be kept at that level until at least February 2022. 

Basically, all this means is that the pace of RBA asset purchases isn’t going to slow until next February. After July’s meeting, it was thought that the Bank would begin reviewing bond-buying every three months before removing it altogether over the course of the year. That doesn’t look like the case just yet. 

Still, we’re not really expecting any fireworks when the RBA delivers its October rate statement on Tuesday morning. 

Markets may have anticipated more hawkish moves from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand instead – but recent comments from Assistant Governor Christian Hawksby suggest any talk of a major cash rate hike are premature. 

“Central banks globally tend to follow a smoothed path and keep their policy rate unchanged or move in 25 basis point increments,” Hawksby said, putting paid to any ideas of a 50 basis point upswing in New Zealand’s 0.25% cash rate. 

Instead, it is likely to follow an incremental path before taking rates up to 1.5% by the end of 2022. 

But, as ever, there is a big COVID-19 shadow looming over New Zealand fiscal policy. The country recently went back into lockdown after a rise in Delta variant cases. Although it’s starting to remerge once again, the small number of incidents may have been enough to give the RBNZ the jitters. 

According to Reuters, markets are pricing in a 60% chance of a rate hike on Wednesday when Governor Orr speaks. 

Finally, OPEC and allies meet once more for their monthly get together and policy bash on Monday. 

With prices high and demand along with them, we’ll probably see a rubber-stamping of more output to come. OPEC+ has committed to pumping an additional 400,000 bpd each month until the end of next year as it seeks to recover pandemic-induced losses. 

According to September’s Monthly Oil Market Report, OPEC+ believes demand will exceed 2019 levels by the end of 2022.  

With Brent crude nudging towards $80 at the time of writing, the US is sounding alarm bells over the price of gasoline. The US has historically enjoyed much cheaper petrol prices than some other developed nations and anything that challenges that is seen as unacceptable by Joe Sixpack and Joe Biden. 

The President said the US is currently in talks with OPEC about raising volumes further to cover this – perhaps ignoring the fact that US shale is ready to add at least 800,000 bpd to global supplies once it gets up and running. 

OPEC+ is very much its own creature anyway. Everything it does is in the interest of its member states, allies, and worldwide oil prices as a whole. Whether Biden’s pleas fall on deaf ears, we don’t quite know, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see OPEC-JMMC sticking to its own agenda in October and beyond. 

Major economic data 

Date  Time (GMT+1)  Asset  Event 
Mon 04-Oct  All Day  OIL  OPEC-JMMC Meetings 
       
Tue 05-Oct  4.30am  AUD  RBA Rate Statement 
  4.30am  AUD  Cash Rate 
  3.00pm  USD  ISM Services PMI 
       
Wed 06-Oct  2.00am  NZD  Official Cash Rate 
  2.00am  NZD  RBNZ Rate Statement 
  1.15pm  USD  ADP Nonfarm Employment Change 
  3.30pm  OIL  US Crude Oil Inventories 
       
Thu 07-Oct  3.30pm  GAS  US Natural Gas Inventories 
       
Fri 08-Oct  1.30pm  CAD  Employment Change 
  1.30pm  CAD  Unemployment Rate 
  1.30pm  USD  Average Hourly Earnings m/m 
  1.30pm  USD  Nonfarm Employment Change 
  1.30pm  USD  Unemployment Rate 
  Tentative  USD  Treasury Currency Report 

Stocks flattish ahead of US jobs report

Morning Note

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. 

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