US unemployment rate hits eight-year low, but job creation slows – business live

Powered by article titled “US unemployment rate hits eight-year low, but job creation slows – business live” was written by Graeme Wearden and Nick Fletcher, for on Friday 5th February 2016 15.08 UTC

EU says Portuguese budget “non-compliant” but will be re-assessed in Spring

The European Commission has said that it accepts the Portuguese budget after some changes, but it is still at risk of non-compliance with EU rules. It will assess the budget again in the spring. It said:

The European Commission considers that the Portuguese government’s 2016 Draft Budgetary Plan is at risk of non-compliance with the provisions of the Stability and Growth Pact. In its Opinion adopted today, the Commission therefore invites the authorities to take the necessary measures within the national budgetary process to ensure that the 2016 budget will be compliant with the Stability and Growth Pact.

Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for the Euro and Social Dialogue, said: “…The Portuguese Government is invited to take the necessary steps to ensure that the 2016 budget is compliant. In spring, the Commission will reassess Portugal’s compliance with its obligations under the Stability and Growth Pact, including under the Excessive Deficit Procedure.”

Dombrovskis. Photograph: Vincent Kessler/Reuters

The full statement is here:

European Commission adopts Opinion on Portugal’s 2016 Draft Budgetary Plan


We mentioned earlier that the European Commission was meeting to discuss Portugal’s anti-austerity budget, and could reject it. Well, perhaps not entirely.


The non-farm figures, although the headline number was lower than expected, still suggest further US rate rises this year, according to UniCredit chief economist Harm Bandholz:

The [jobs] report unequivocally supports the Federal Reserve’s (and our) baseline view that further gradual rate hikes are warranted. After all, ongoing labor market dynamics are the main driver of consumer spending, which in turn is the main driver of economic growth in the US.

A falling unemployment rate and faster wage gains also mean that the Fed is getting closer to meet both of its mandates. That said, many Fed officials have in recent weeks highlighted the unusual uncertainty about the outlook, and stressed that they need to see evidence that global headwinds and tighter financial conditions do not affect the US economy. So while this report is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, the FOMC wants to see more of these signs before pulling the trigger again.

And here are the odds on a hike:

Wall Street opens lower

Following the mixed US employment figures, the US market is slipping back in early trading.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down around 30 points or 0.16% while the S&P slipped 0.2% and the Nasdaq fell 0.4% at the open.

European markets are off their best levels, with the FTSE 100 now up just 7 points after earlier climbing nearly 50 points. Germany’s Dax and France’s Cac are also up just 20 and 14 points respectively.

Brent crude has dipped 0.6% to $34.25 a barrel.

So, fewer US rate cuts this year than previously forecast perhaps.

“No joy in jobs report”

More reaction to the non-farm numbers. And here’s a gloomy one from Gary Chaison, Professor of Industrial Relations at Clark University:

There is no joy in this month’s jobs report and no sign that things have turned around. The recovery isn’t happening, it isn’t expanding and the labor participation rate is holding. While wages are up a bit, it isn’t enough to make an impact. A lot of workers have substituted good jobs for poor jobs or aren’t working at all which is why the labor participating rate continues to hold. I think the real problem is a lack of consumer confidence that we’re going to come out of this, the economy can recover or we can fall back into a recession. For the huge recession we had, we should be seeing a huge recovery and this is impacting the voters and public in general.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said:

Signs of a slowdown in hiring, still-weak annual pay growth and disappointing survey data, all pitched alongside an adverse financial market environment so far this year, reduce the odds of the Fed hiking rates again in March.

“The unemployment rate fell to an eight-year low of 4.9% as the economy added 151,000 jobs in January, according to official estimates, signalling a marked slowing in the rate of job creation after the surge seen late last year. However, this is still a robust rate of employment growth, and a trend strong enough to keep bringing unemployment down. Furthermore, December’s numbers had in part reflected stronger than usual construction sector hiring due to unseasonably warm weather…

It would therefore not be surprising if Fed policymakers decided to await clear signs of an upturn in the economic data flow and easing of financial conditions before committing to more tightening.

Non-Farm Reaction: It’s OK really

Some commentators have concluded January’s Non-Farm Payroll was good, apart from the bad bits. Others reckon it was a bad report, apart from the good bits.

So on balance, it’s probably OK.

There are around 6 million American stuck in part-time jobs who want to work full time, down from around 6.8 million a year ago.

Today’s report says:

These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find full-time jobs.

And that’s despite a steady-pickup in full-time job creation since 2011.

Mixed but not too bad, is the verdict of Rob Carnell at ING on the non-farm numbers, with a March rise in US interest rates now very unlikely:

The January labour market survey was very mixed, though the headline payrolls figure was on the soft side, at only 151,000, with downward revisions to the previous months data (262,000 down from 292,000).

But aside from this, the report wasn’t all that bad. The household survey registered an eye-popping and rather improbable 615,000 increase, which added to the 485,000 gain in December suggests more than 1.1 million jobs were created in the last two months. That takes some swallowing, but helped to push the unemployment rate down a further notch to 4.9%.

But adding to the sense that this is a mixed, rather than bad reading, both hours worked and average earnings also came in on the stronger side, with some upwards revisions on the wages side.

It is difficult to see exactly what the Fed will make of this. But with global financial conditions tightening, this release says “more data needed” before drawing any firm conclusions about any shift in Fed policy. That does at least suggest that a March hike remains off the table. And hopefully by then, we will have a better idea of whether things are really slowing, with no further hikes possible, or whether recent data were just a soft patch and the Fed can resume tightening later in the year.

Several industries took on more staff last month, says the Bureau of Labour Statistics.

Here’s a breakdown of where new jobs were created in January:

  • The retail sector: +58,000 jobs,
  • Employment in food services and drinking places: +47,000.
  • Health care: +37,000
  • Manufacturing: +29,000 jobs in January
  • Financial activities: +18,000.

But, employment declined in private educational services, transportation and warehousing, and mining.

The Non-farm Payroll is online here.

US futures – which before the non-farm figures were predicting a 19 point gain on the Dow Jones Industrial Average – are now suggesting a 65 point decline when the market opens.

These latest non-farm payroll numbers are another set of poor data since the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates in December, says Dennis de Jong, managing director at

However confident Janet Yellen and her Fed colleagues were when raising interest rates in December, the US data released in January must be giving them food for thought – and today’s poor non-farm payroll figures are no different.

Adding less than 200 thousand jobs for the first time since October, coupled with lower than expected GDP and productivity figures, has taken some of the shine off of the previously buoyant US economy.

Yellen won’t be worrying too much just yet, as other major economies have pared down growth forecasts amid global volatility. Many observers will surely be adopting a wait and see approach.

Josh Raymond, director at London-based broker XTB, sums it up: It’s a mixed bag.

The dollar is fluctuating wildly as traders (and their algorithms) try to decide if this is a good jobs report, or a bad one.

Here’s the unemployment rate:

Unemployment rate.
Unemployment rate. Photograph: Bureau of Labour Statistics


Average earnings beat forecasts

This is important. Average earnings rose by 0.5% month-on-month in January, and were up 2.5% over the last year.

That’s a decent pick-up, suggesting that workers are feeling the benefits of the recovery. And that will reassure the Federal Reserve that it didn’t blunder by raising interest rates in December.


Seasonally adjusted month on month change in non-farm payroll employment.
Seasonally adjusted month on month change in non-farm payroll employment. Photograph: Bureau of Labour Statistics

December’s payroll has been revised down to +262,000, down from the previous estimate of +292,000

But it’s not all bad – November’s has been revised up to +280,000, from +252,000.

Effectively, almost 30,000 new hires have been moved around. Nothing to panic about.


Non-Farm Payroll released

Here we go!

The US economy created 151,000 new jobs last month, according to the Non-Farm Payroll which is flashing on the wires right now.

That’s rather weaker than the 190,000 expected by economists.

The US unemployment rate has dipped again, though, to just 4.9%. That’s an eight-year low.

Lots more to follow….


Economist Frederik Ducrozet predicts solid earnings growth….

If the economists are right, today’s non-farm payroll will show the slowest job creation since September:

What to watch for in the Non-Farm Payroll

Thank goodness. We’re about to get the final major economic news of the week.

At 1.30pm GMT sharp, or 8.30am Washington time, we’ll get a insight into the state of the US jobs market. Even though Non-Farm Payroll is notoriously unpredictable, and regularly revised, it will still set the mood in the markets – possibly for some time.

So, what should we watch for?

1) The first question is how many new jobs were created in January? The consensus figure is that the NFP rose by 190,000. That would be a slowdown on December’s 292,000 (which could be revised), but not a disaster.

However, Wall Street economists are quite divided – Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch have predicted 170,000 new jobs, while French bank Société Générale is optimistically expecting 245,000.

2) Wage growth is also important. The Fed is unlikely to raise rates again until it sees decent earnings growth. Economists predict that wages probably increased 2.2% annually, or 0.3% month-on-month. Not too impressive, if so.

3) Where were the jobs created? The report could show that the energy industry kept slashing staff, in response to the fall in the oil price. But how are manufacturers faring? If they aren’t hiring, that could suggest the factory sector is struggling.

It will take something remarkable today to prevent the US dollar posting its worst week since the last global downturn.

Since Monday morning, the dollar has lost almost 3% against a basket of major currencies, as traders reassess the prospects for American monetary policy following signs of economic weakness at home and abroad.

The possibility that we see zero US interest rises this year weakened the greenback against almost every other currency.

Bloomberg’s Mark Barton has tweeted the details:

Yesterday, Greece’s riot police clashed with protesters as Athens was gripped by a huge anti-austerity protest.

Today, officers have been protesting outside prime minister Alexis Tsipras’s mansion, objecting to cuts to their own pensions.

There will be more protests later, as the Kathimerini newspaper flags up:

The brief rally dispersed without any upheaval but police are expected to monitor a larger anti-austerity rally scheduled to take place in central Athens on Friday afternoon when fire service workers are to join police officers in protesting the planned changes to the pension system.

Weak dollar lifts mining shares

For the second day running, mining stocks are going on a remarkable rally.

Anglo American is leading the charge, up 10%, adding to Thursday’s 19% surge, with commodity player Glencore up over 5%.

FTSE 100 top risers today
FTSE 100 top risers today Photograph: Thomson Reuters

It looks like traders are anticipating that miners will benefit if (as seems likely) the US Federal Reserve resists raising interest rates much this year. That, the theory goes, makes the US dollar weaker and means commodity prices rise (you need more dollars to buy the same lump of iron ore).

This is all bad news for the speculators who have ‘shorted’ mining stocks – selling shares they don’t own, and planning to buy them back at a lower price in future.

Once that bet goes wrong, speculators can be caught in a nasty ‘bear squeeze’, scrambling over each other to buy shares to cover their short position.

The FT’s Neil Hume, though, wonders if something else is happening at Anglo….


ArcelorMittal has become the latest company to count the cost of the commosity crunch

The world’s largest steelmaker is to raise $3bn through a rights issue to strengthen its finances, news that sent its shares sliding by over 7%.

After weeks of rocky markets, traders are grateful that there’s really not much going on today.

That will change when the US jobs report lands at 1.30pm.

Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets, says we should enjoy the quiet while we can:

“Equity markets are pretty much flat amid a welcome calming of recent volatility as investors adopt their traditional wait-and-see ahead of the US monthly jobs report, even if it should have little bearing on the topic and driver of the week – the Fed’s ability to raise rates in 2016 amid soggy data and protracted financial market gyrations following its December hike.

Brussels showdown over Portugal’s anti-austerity budget

A Euro logo stands in front of the headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) on June 21, 2011 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Two and a half months after taking office, Portugal’s left-wing government is heading into a showdown with EU authorities.

The Commission is holding a special college meeting today, to discuss Lisbon’s failure to submit tax and spending plans that meets EU rules. It could reject Portugal’s new anti-austerity budget – which would be a pretty incendiary development.

Politico’s Ryan Heath sets the scene:

Portugal yesterday adopted its budget without waiting for Commission approval. Now, if the budget is rejected in Brussels “it would mark the first time a eurozone government has had its spending plan vetoed.”

Some suspect that a small country (Portugal) is once again being targeted not only on the merits of its own problems but to make a point to a bigger country (Italy) with similar issues that the EU dare not touch directly.

I can’t see Portugal meekly accepting a rebuke. Its current budget will create deficits above the 3% limit in both 2016 and 2017 — as the government tries to unravel years of austerity and spur more growth.

Yougov’s claim that the Brexit campaign have a nine-point lead has been gently rubbished by Andrew Cooper of rival polling group Populus:

European stock markets have opened cautiously, with little news to stir investors ahead of the US jobs report in just five hours time.

The German and French markets have picked up, led by exporters, following a small dip in the value of the euro against the US dollar this morning.

European stock markets
European stock markets Photograph: Thomson Reuters

In London, mining shares are dropping after posting big jumps yesterday. Anglo American, which surged by almost 20% on Thursday, are down 4%.

But the City is really waiting for the NFP report, because it could shunt the dollar one way or the other.

Tony Cross of Trustnet explains:

Looking ahead, it’s the US non-farm payrolls that will dominate in the short term as this could readily counter the dollar weakness that we’ve seen creeping in of late.

Critically this has been pushing commodity prices higher and accounted for at least part of the short squeeze that was seen as buoying the miners yesterday, so anything that looks too hot in the data could have repercussions going into the weekend break.

UBS analyst Paul Donovan isn’t impressed by the media clamour over Non-Farm Payroll Day.

Peppering his morning research note with sarcastic exclamation marks, he writes:

Employment report Friday!!! A frequently revised statistic about a tiny change in a very large labour market!!! Cue the media frenzy right now. The consensus is for a generally OK report in aggregate.

Sorry, Paul.

There’s a lot of chatter about Brexit in the City this morning.

Bank of England deputy governor, Ben Broadbent, has told the BBC that companies don’t appear to be freezing spending ahead of the EU referendum (which could come in June)

Asked about Brexit risks, he said:

“We have not yet seen, regarding investment intentions, any weakening of those of late,but obviously it’s something we watch pretty closely.”

But a glance at the front page of The Times could encourage companies to rethink their spending plans. A new survey puts the Out campaign in the lead, by 45% to 36% (with 19% of people unsure).

But before we cement up the Channel Tunnel, let’s remember that the polling industry has been far from infallible recently (it got the Scottish referendum, and the last general election, wrong).

And these kind of stories are also likely to get Remain supporters out to the polling booth. Which may be why they’re expected to win:

Most Asian stock markets fell today, as traders hunkered down ahead of this afternoon’s non-farm payroll report.

In Japan, the Nikkei fell by another 1.3%, amid nervousness that the yen might continue to strengthen against the US dollar (bad for Japanese exporters and inflation).

The Chinese stock market also fell, losing around 0.6% in a quiet trading session. Many investors have already quit the bourses and headed home to celebrate the Chinese New Year

A visitor takes pictures of a Monkey lantern at a festival ahead of the upcoming Spring Festival in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, February 4, 2016. Picture taken February 4, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA.
A visitor takes pictures of a Monkey lantern at a festival ahead of the upcoming Spring Festival in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. Photograph: China Stringer Network/Reuters

German factory orders decline

The European trading day has started with weak economic data out of Germany.

German factory orders declined by 0.7% month-on-month in December, according to stats body Destatis. Economists expected a 0.5% drop, following a 1.5% jump in orders in November.

These monthly surveys can be quite volatile, but it suggests Germany’s economy ended 2015 on the back foot.

And it can’t just be blamed on emerging markets. Orders from outside the eurozone actually rose, but that couldn’t make up for falling demand from Germany’s euro neighbours, or within Germany itself.

Bloomberg has more details:

Domestic orders fell 2.5%, the ministry said, while euro-area orders slumped 6.9% and demand from outside the currency bloc rose 5.5 percent. Orders for investment goods declined 0.5, and for consumer goods surged 4.3 percent.

“Order activity somewhat recovered in the fourth quarter,” the ministry said in a statement. “Increasing demand from countries outside the euro area indicates a gradual recovery the global economy. However, industry expectations have somewhat clouded, signaling a more modest recovery in industrial activity.

Introduction: It’s Non-Farm Payroll Day

Good morning.

Another turbulent week in the markets is nearly over. But there’s just one major hurdle to get over first – the US unemployment report, due at 1.30pm GMT.

January’s Non-Farm Payroll is expected to show that around 192,000 new jobs were created in America last month (excluding the volatile agriculture sector).

The unemployment rate is projected to stay at 5% — just half the level in the eurozone. And wage growth could remain elusive, with earnings expected to rise just 2.2% year-on-year.

Economists will be scrutinising the data closely, for signs that the labor market is weakening. Recent economic surveys from the US have been somewhat disappointing, with service sector growth slowing last month.

A disappointing payroll report could renew fears over the US economy, and mean the US central bank cannot raise interest rates for several months. Perhaps not even this year?

The US dollar is already on track for its worst week since 2009, and it could slump again if the NFP comes in below forecasts.

Angus Nicholson of IG explains:

A big miss on the NFP numbers (150,000 or less) would see a further dive in the US dollar, killing expectations of any further rate hikes by the Fed.

Europe’s stock markets are expected to open cautiously, with investors sitting on their hands until the report comes out.

Also coming up today:

A row is brewing in Brussels with Portugal, whose new left-wing government has angered eurocrats by submitting a budget that doesn’t meet the EU’s fiscal rules. More on that shortly….

And Bank of England governor Ben Broadbent is on a media tour this morning:

Updated © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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