Monday, August 6, 2012

Proceed Cautiously

The economy, generally dreary,
Brings occasional news that is cheery,
But consider all facets
Before moving assets
Because of a bull market theory.

Marketwatch reports that "Asian stock markets were bolstered [today] after the U.S. economy added more jobs than expected in July." According to Paul Ashworth of Capital Economics, “The bigger-than-expected 163,000 increase in U.S. non-farm payrolls in July, alongside the small rise in the ISM non-manufacturing index, should ease fears that the U.S. economy is following Europe into recession.” However, there are three good reasons to proceed cautiously in reacting to a single, positive datapoint:

  1. The July number does not confirm a positive trend; the average NFP increase over the last three months is only 105,000, at the lower end of the 100,000-120,000 monthly increase considered necessary to accommodate new jobseekers. 
  2. The unemployment rate went up; unemployment is calculated based on a household survey "of people who are without jobs, who are available to work and who have actively sought work in the prior four weeks, and that number rose in July—by 45,000 to 12.8 million," says the Wall Street Journal's Phil Izzo. NFP is calculated from the number of jobs reported in a survey of businesses, so workers can be counted twice. 
  3. A single datapoint may be influenced by one-time factors; in this case, auto manufacturing layoffs that normally occur in July did not happen, raising the possibility that they may do so in August, depressing that month's jobs data.

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