Morning Report: Strong ADP numbers

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2939 10.25
Eurostoxx index 384.7 2.78
Oil (WTI) 75.25 0.07
10 year government bond yield 3.08%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.78%

 

Stocks are higher after the ADP jobs report came in gangbusters. Bonds and MBS are flat as we head into a day with 5 Fed speakers.

 

The ADP jobs report came in stronger than expected, with 230,000 private sector jobs added in September. This is well higher than the 180,000 estimate the Street has penciled in for Friday’s report.  The market will be focusing on the wage data more than the payroll data with the employment situation report, however.

 

ADP jobs report

 

Mortgage applications were flat last week as we head into the seasonally slow Q4 and Q1 time of the year. “Rates were little changed last week, following the most recent [Federal Open Market Committee] meeting where the Fed announced another rate hike based on the health of the economy and job market as expected, “said MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting Joel Kan. “Short-term rates have been increasing but long-term rates have held steady, which should not pose too much of a headwind to home purchase activity, especially given the potential demand from demographic factors.”

 

The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index hit a record high last month (albeit only going back to 2008). We saw a huge jump in the employment index of almost 6 percentage points, and continued strength in new orders. Tariff worries have taken a step back, and prices are rising, but not uncontrollably. Labor shortages were mentioned as an issue.

 

Mortgage fraud risk is increasing, as higher home prices encourages buyers to pad their financial situation to qualify for a loan. There are online services which will produce fake pay stubs and answer VOE calls, (for “novelty” purposes of course). This is in addition to the other more typical ploys, which include holding out a rental as owner-occupied. Most of the risk in in the wholesale, not retail channel, and we are nowhere near the liar loans of the bubble days. Worst places for fraud risk: NY and NJ, where glacial foreclosure timelines add insult to injury.

 

They’re still worried about deflation. Charles Evans said that inflation hasn’t gone up as much as the Fed would like. Fiscal policy is very pro-cyclical at the moment, and the expansion is long in the tooth.

 

The Tesla saga has taken another interesting turn. The SEC thought they had a settlement with Musk over the infamous 420 tweet (where he tweeted that he was planning to take Tesla private at $420 a share price, and that he had financing lined up).  The SEC sued him for making false statements that impacted the share price, and he got off relatively light, with a fine to be shared with the company, and a requirement that he step down from the Board for 2 years. Now, Musk is telling the Board that he will quit the company if they don’t fight for him. One thing is for sure: getting into public spats with the SEC is generally not good for your stock price.

 

I am surprised Amazon stock is holding up given the announcement yesterday. Although the company declined to provide any financial guidance, it is hard to see how the company escapes without a significant bite in its earnings. To make matters worse for the company, cash flow will be impacted as employee bonuses for many workers will now be paid in cash versus stock. AMZN earnings last year: $3 billion. AMZN stock compensation last year $4 billion. I guess bulls on AMZN are betting that this holiday shopping season is going to be so great that the increased costs don’t matter. But a company trading at 78x expected earnings doesn’t have a lot of margin for error, especially if its cost structure is going to more closely mirror that of its bricks-and-mortar competitors. I am sure the politics behind the announcement will be a fascinating tale.

 

 

Morning Report: Real wage growth? Depends on the inflation measure

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2890 2.9
Eurostoxx index 375.35 -0.33
Oil (WTI) 68.96 -0.25
10 year government bond yield 2.90%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.56%

Stocks are flattish despite the continued rout in emerging markets. Bonds and MBS are down small.

Lots of labor market data this morning.

Initial Jobless Claims fell to 203,000, which is the lowest level since late 1969. That said, job cut announcements did pick up, according to the Challenger and Gray job cut report.

Productivity came in at 2.9% in the second quarter, according to BLS. This was driven by a 5% increase in output and a 2% increase in hours worked. Unit Labor costs fell 1% as compensation increased 1.9% and productivity increased 2.9%. The jump in productivity is important, not only because it generally portends higher wages, but because it portends non-inflationary wage inflation, which will allow the Fed to continue on its slow interest rate hike path.

The economy added 163,000 jobs in August, according to the ADP report. This is below the Street’s 195,000 estimate for tomorrow’s employment situation report. This is the lowest number in a year. Despite the slowdown, Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said, “The job market is hot. Employers are aggressively competing to hold onto their existing workers and to find new ones. Small businesses are struggling the most in this competition, as they increasingly can’t fill open positions.”

The WH says that wages are growing faster than traditional measures would indicate. The Administration is saying that real wage growth is in the 1.4% to 1.9% range. According to BLS, nominal (non-inflation adjusted) wage growth has been around 2.7%, and with the CPI running at 2.9%, that would imply slightly negative wage growth. What is the difference? First of all compensation includes more than simply wages. It also includes benefits and health care costs have been increasing at well above the rate of inflation. This is a valid (albeit unsatisfying) point. Second, a lot depends on which inflation index one uses. The Personal Consumption Expenditure Index is the one preferred by the Fed and it generally runs slower than the CPI. This is due to a number of reasons, but the primary one is that the PCE takes into account the substitution effect and CPI doesn’t. In other words, the CPI assumes that people’s behavior doesn’t change when presented with increased prices, while the PCE assumes that people will consume less high priced goods and consume more low-priced goods. The classic example of this is that when meat prices rise, people eat more vegetables. Another difference is that PCE looks at costs from the business sense more than CPI does. This is important in wages, because the cost of an employee to an employer is more than just the paycheck. CPI generally ignores this, while PCE takes it into account. Punch line is that partisans are going to cherry pick the inflation index they want in order to push their interpretation of events. Left econ wants to push the narrative that wages are going nowhere and the headline CPI number gets them there. Right econ / the Admin will prefer to use PCE, which shows real wage growth.

Left econ is trying to use slow wage growth to push a theory that employers are exhibiting monopsonistic behavior and the remedy is for the government to break up big employers. Monopsonistic behavior implies that there is only one buyer for something (the classic example is the government and defense technology). Left econ thinks the labor market is a lot more concentrated than common sense would suggest. Their conclusion is that the average worker has only 3 companies to choose from which is hard to accept.

Trump administration officials are denying they wrote an anonymous op-ed published in the New York Times that describes cabinet members trying to steer a mercurial executive to do the right things and to blunt his worst impulses. There has been plenty of evidence that has been the case already, especially on trade. Regardless, it just seems to be the latest in the war between Trump and the press, and the markets don’t seem to care.

On the trade front, today is the deadline for public comment on some $200 billion in new tariffs on Chinese goods. Trump is expected to impose these tariffs once the period is over. He also made comments regarding NAFTA and Canada, saying there has been progress on the issue.

Morning Report: Strong ADP number

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2818 1.75
Eurostoxx index 389.71 -1.9
Oil (WTI) 67.7 -1.06
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.99%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.62%

Stocks are higher this morning after good earnings from Apple. Bonds and MBS are down.

Japanese government bonds got shellacked overnight, with yields rising 8 basis points, which is causing reverberations throughout global bond markets. 8 basis points is a lot in one day regardless, but when rates were only 5 bps to begin with, it is quite the move.

Donald Trump threatened more tariffs with China. We seem to be going back and forth between detente and escalation.

The FOMC announcement is scheduled to be released at 2:00 pm EST. No changes in rates are expected, however the action will be in the statement and the interpretations for a December hike. While Trump’s criticism of the Fed’s rate hikes was unfortunate, things have been testier between the Central Bank and the Executive branch in the past. LBJ shoved William (take away the punch bowl just as the party is getting going) McChesney up against the wall in the Oval Office.

Mortgage Applications fell 2.6% last week as purchases fell 3% and refis fell 2%. We saw a 7 basis point increase in conforming rates to 4.84%. The government share of mortgages increased.

The private sector added 219,000 jobs in July, according to the latest ADP report. The Street is looking for 190,000 in Friday’s report, but as always, the bond market will be looking more at average hourly earnings than the headline payroll number. Construction added 17,000 jobs, while business services added 47,000 and healthcare added 49,000.

ADP jobs report

Manufacturing decelerated slightly in July, but continued to its torrid pace. As expected, much of the talk is about steel tariffs and when those costs will get passed on to consumers. Labor is becoming a bottleneck as well – it is causing capacity constraints.

Construction spending fell 1.1% in June (which missed estimates) and is up 6.5% on a YOY basis. Resi construction was down on a MOM basis, but increased 8.7% on an annual basis.

Morning Report: Awaiting the Fed

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2652 0.25
Eurostoxx index 387.17 2.14
Oil (WTI) 67.45 0.19
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.99%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.55%

Stocks are flat as we await the FOMC decision. Bonds and MBS are down small.

Mortgage Applications fell 2.5% last week as purchases fell 2% and refis fell 4%.

The economy added 204,000 jobs last month according to the ADP Employment Report. This was higher than expectations and is above the Street estimate for Friday’s jobs report. Medium sized firms (50-500 employees) added the most jobs, and Professional and Business Services sector had the most growth. Construction added a lot of jobs as well.

ADP by sector

The FOMC announcement is scheduled for 2:00 pm EST today. No changes in rates are expected, but investors will be looking to see if the Fed changes its language about inflation running below target. The latest PCE index came in at 2%, which is the Fed’s target. The second-order question will be to see whether the Fed changes their 2% rate from a symmetric target to a ceiling. The most likely outcome will be a “steady as she goes” statement and any changes will be communicated at the June meeting with a fresh set of economic forecasts. Today’s announcement should be a nonevent.

The Fed Funds futures are predicting a 6% chance of a hike at the May meeting and a 94% chance of a 25 basis point hike at the June meeting.

The labor shortage is so acute in the Rust Belt that some towns are paying people to move there. Most of these small towns have a major demographic problem – younger workers moved to the cities in response to the Great Recession, leaving only the older workers who are now retiring. The fear is that labor shortages will prompt employers to leave, which will create a downward spiral.

Consumer advocates worry that Mick Mulvaney is not going to blow up the CFPB, but will neuter it with a thousand cuts. That said, the rhetoric from the left is a bit overblown. Mick Mulvaney said: “When I took over, we had roughly 26 lawsuits ongoing,” he told the House Appropriations Committee on April 18. “I dismissed one, because the other 25 I thought were pretty good lawsuits.”