Did Non-farm Payrolls Change the Sentiment Story?

by Sean Bryant on June 11, 2013

Non-Farm PayrollNegative sentiment crawled back into the capital markets approximately 2-week ago when FOMC chairman discussed monetary policy with member of congress during his bi-annual testimony.  The chairman during the question and answer period discussed the potential tapering of the current bond purchase program which immediately took the rose off of the U.S. stock and bond markets.

Prior to his testimony sentiment within the capital markets was reaching extraordinary heights.  The Nikkei has reached 15,000 while the S&P 500 was pressing up against 1,680.  Good news was considered good news by market participants and bad news was considered even better for stock market bulls.  Investors were happy to believe that the Federal Reserve would continue to pump 85 billion dollars a month into the system forever.

After Bernanke’s testimony everything changed.  The Nikkei collapsed, losing more than 2,000 points, the S&P 500 lost 4% and the 10-year yield in the U.S. backed up above 2.10%.  All of a sudden bad economic news not only created headwinds for equities but also pushed US interest rates higher.  Investors were caught in a tug of war and comments such as the “June Swoon” were back in vogue describing market volatility.

On Friday, June 7, sentiment began to take a turn for the better.  Investors were waiting for the Bureau of Labor Statistics to release its employment report, but were nervous given recent economic releases that were disappointing.

For example, on Monday the Institute of Supply Management released its manufacturing purchasing managers index which show that the US was contracting.  The ISM overall index printed at 49, which was the first print below the 50 boom bust level since 2006.  The ISM employment index remained above 50, but ticked down below April’s release. Wednesday’s worse than expected ADP private payroll report also but investors on the defensive.  ADP reported that private payrolls increased by 135,000 jobs compared to the 170,000 expected by economists.  These disappointing data point put investors on their heels prior to the release of the government’s employment report.

Sentiment quickly changed when the Department of Labor released non-farm payrolls.  The 175,000 (as reported here) increase was just the right recipe for investors.  The number fell right into the Goldie Locks scenario, which was not to hot or cold and would allow the Federal Reserve to continue to purchase bonds at the same clip without a strong argument to curtail the current program.  Economists had been expecting job increases of 169,000 but many had reduced their forecasts based on the anemic results from ADP.

Almost immediately traders felt a sigh of relief.  The number is not a feel good number but instead a relief number that could put stocks back on course to make new all-time highs.  Bond yields continue to be the thorn in the side for equity traders.  Economic data is not strong enough to justify increases above a 2 percent 10-year yield, but the bond vigilantes seem to be back, keeping sentiment in line and not irrational.

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Sean Bryant

Sean Bryant created OneSmartDollar.com in 2011 to help pass along his knowledge of finance and economics to others. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a degree in economics he worked as a construction superintendent before jumping into the world of finance. Sean has worked on the trade desk for a commodities brokerage firm, he was a project manager for an investment research company and was a CDO analyst at a big bank. That being said he brings a good understanding of the finance field to the One Smart Dollar community. When not working Sean and he wife are avid world travelers. He enjoys spending time with his daughter Colette and dog Charlie.

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