NFP Instant Insight: Strong Jobs Report Not Enough to Bring “Patient” Fed Off the Sidelines
Matt Weller, CFA, CMT February 1, 2019 2:12 PM
In a different environment, today’s Non-Farm Payrolls report would have led to fireworks, rather than the “wet blanket” market reaction that we’ve seen so far.
As my colleague Fawad Razaqzada noted earlier today, the import of this month’s jobs report was largely preempted by the Fed’s big shift from hawkish to neutral on Wednesday. So even though we saw a blowout number, with job creation nearly doubling up expectations at 304k vs. 165k eyed in January, traders have largely shrugged off the report.
A quick rundown of the other aspects of the report follows:
- Last month’s report was revised down from 312k to 222k. The -90k revision was the largest since 2014.
- Average Hourly Earnings rose 0.1% m/m, 3.2% y/y as expected. This marks the fourth straight month of wage growth above 3.0%.
- The Unemployment Rate ticked up from 3.9% to 4.0%. The rise can be chalked up to an equivalent rise in the Labor Force Participation Rate, which rose to 63.2%, its highest level since 2014.
- The U6 unemployment rate, which includes discouraged workers, spiked from 7.6% to 8.1%.
- Average Hours Worked held steady at 34.5.
On balance, today’s report was a strong sign for the US labor market, and if Fed policymakers hadn’t already taken themselves to the sidelines by vowing to be “patient” earlier this week, we would likely have seen a big spike in the US dollar and Treasury yields, and a corresponding drop in US stocks.
Instead, we’ve seen a fairly subdued reaction, with the greenback holding still within 10 pips of its pre-NFP levels against the euro, pound, and yen. That said, we have seen US stocks tick marginally higher ahead of the open, and US treasury yields are trading up by around 2bps across the curve. Gold is holding steady near 1320.
Given the Fed’s shift toward “patience” early this week, it’s premature to draw conclusions about what today’s report means for policy moving forward, but an extension of this string of better-than-anticipated job reports over the next few months could eventually bring the central bank back off the sidelines in the latter half of the year.
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