By Greg Peel
The Dow closed down 40 points or 0.2% while the S&P fell 0.1% to 2141 and the Nasdaq fell 0.1%.
The net number of jobs in Australia declined by 9,800 in September and the August number was revised down to a loss of 8,600 jobs from a previously reported 3,900. That’s not great news in itself, but the real shock came on the breakdown of the September numbers.
Full-time jobs fell by a whopping 53,000 – the biggest drop since 2009 – offset by a 43,200 rise in part-time jobs. The increasingly misleading unemployment rate fell to 5.6% from 5.7% but only because participation fell. Underemployment stands at a record 8.7%.
Now, the ABS did warn that the rotation of new group into the survey has distorted the numbers somewhat, given that group had a lower labour intensity than the group rotated out. This group rotation is intended to provide for a more complete picture but only leads to volatility in the results. There is no getting past the fact full-time jobs are on the wane and part-time jobs are rising.
That’s why wage growth is almost non-existent. Earlier this week the RBA governor suggested there would be no change to monetary policy unless one or more of three risks eventuated – the housing bubble burst, the labour market deteriorated and/or inflation remained lower than expected. Well, surely the labour market is deteriorating if more and more workers are forced to take fewer hours than they’d like.
And that plays into low inflation, given the impact on wage growth.
No surprise therefore that the Aussie tanked on yesterday’s numbers. It continued to fall overnight as the US dollar rallied and is down 1.1% over 24 hours to US$0.7631.
The jobs numbers had no notable effect on the Australian stock market yesterday which, after a bizarre spike and drop on the open probably related to the expiry of October futures, meandered slightly higher and then back down again to the close. As markets around the world await the big global events coming up, the local market is currently trading in alpha mode on individual corporate AGMs and quarterly reports and not going anywhere much index-wise, just as was the case for most of the August result season.
Looking at yesterday’s sector moves there is no discernible macro pattern. The leader on the day was energy (+1.1%) thanks to the stronger oil price, which will probably lead to the downside today on oil’s pullback.
The ECB left rates unchanged at its policy meeting last night as expected, but at the subsequent press conference Mario Draghi suggested there was no talk of either extending QE or tapering QE. The central bank will do whatever is deemed necessary as events unfold.
Recently the ECB has chosen its December meeting as the time to make changes which likely relates to the Fed doing the same. Like everyone else, Draghi is no doubt waiting to see what happens with the US election (and the Italian referendum), OPEC and the Fed.
It looks like the forex market was backing a more hawkish outcome because the euro took a dive after the press conference, sending the US dollar index up 0.4% to 98.30.
The S&P500 has now racked up 79 consecutive days of no move greater and 1% in either direction, since the Brexit plunge-and-bounce. It’s the longest stretch in 21 years. True to form, having risen 40 points on Wednesday night, last night the Dow fell 40 points.
One reason is oil. Having shot up on Wednesday night on inventory data, the WTI price shot back down again last night for no apparent reason. But this can easily be explained by last night’s expiry of the November delivery front month contract.
On the corporate earnings front, the results came thick and fast last night and for the most part they represented beats, with some notable exceptions. Among the Dow components, American Express held onto its 5% aftermarket gain of the night before but insurance company Travelers copped a 6% drop and telco Verizon a 2.5% drop, leading the Dow to underperform the S&P.
This morning’s major aftermarket reporter was Microsoft (Dow), the shares of which are up 6%.
Barring anything unforeseen, there is currently no reason to believe the S&P won’t extend its run of negligible volatility, at least until aforementioned pivotal events play out.
To that end, the general feeling is no one won yesterday’s presidential debate, but then no one lost either. Wall Street continues to assume a Clinton victory, while at the same time citing the Brexit vote as reason not to be completely confident, and fearing the unlikely result of the Democrats taking the House. To do so would require a landslide swing.
West Texas crude closed down US95c at US$50.43/bbl. If true to form, it may bounce back tonight in the new December delivery front month contract.
The stronger US dollar appeared to weigh on base metal prices last night, given copper fell 0.5%, aluminium and zinc fell 1% and nickel 2%, while lead rose 1%.
Iron ore rose US40c to US$58.40/t.
The stronger greenback has gold down US$6.60 at US$1262.20/oz.
The SPI Overnight closed down one point.
It’s a quiet 24 hours around the globe data-wise, although Chinese property prices might be interesting.
It’s another busy day for local AGMs, with Insurance Australia Group ((IAG)) and Qantas ((QAN)) the stand-outs while Japara Healthcare ((JHC)) might draw some attention.
Santos ((STO)) will release its quarterly production report.
Rudi will link up with Sky Business today, via Skype, to discuss broker calls at around 11.05am.
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