While many were enjoying an extended break last week, there was good news and bad news on the financial independence front. For the economy, independence from a Federal Reserve rate cut proved to be the right course of action, at least for now.
Stocks reversed multi-week losses and you can thank Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. The week began with hand wringing over the potential Mexican tariffs. On Tuesday, Powell announced that the central bank was keeping an eye on trade developments, their impact on the U.S. economy, and would “act as appropriate to sustain the expansion.”
The latest jobs report shows employers added 263,000 jobs in April. The unemployment rate fell to the lowest rate in half a century. Mola Lenghi reports on the CBS Evening News, and yours truly makes a guest appearance!
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The government reported that the economy added a better than expected 263,000 jobs in April. It was the 103rd straight month of job growth, the longest streak on record. Nearly ten years into the expansion, job creation is 205,000 for the first four months of 2019, just above the monthly amount added since the labor market bottomed out in 2010.
The February jobs report was a mixed bag. Let’s get the bad news out of the way: the economy added only 20,000 positions, the smallest gain since September 2017. The number was much lower than last year’s average monthly amount of 223,000 and far below expectations for 190,000.
It was an exhausting week for investors, even though there were only four trading sessions. Monday’s U.S.-China 90-day trade “time out” stock bounce was dwarfed by big sell-offs throughout the rest of the week. The drubbing began after the President’s tweet that he is a “tariff man,” shortly followed by another, which questioned whether a “real deal” with Beijing is actually possible.
At 12:01am Friday morning, the U.S. imposed previously announced tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico. When the plan was unveiled back in March, the three regions were given a reprieve. The hope was that during a cooling off period, the U.S. would be able to convince the three to restrict metal shipments, as it had been able to do with South Korea, Brazil, Australia and Argentina.
What better way to celebrate the ninth anniversary of the bull market than with a strong employment report? The economy created a better than expected 313,000 new jobs in February, higher than the anticipated 200,000. The strength was seen across a variety of sectors: retail increased by 50,300, construction was up 61,000, manufacturing added 31,000 jobs and professional & business services employment added 50,000.
Hurricanes Irma and Harvey blew across the labor market, as employers shed 33,000 jobs in September. Yes, it was the first negative reading on payrolls in seven years, but until we have the subsequent few months’ reports, it’s hard to read too much into the results. (As a note, Puerto Rico is NOT included in the BLS report.) The Labor Department said that the storms likely contributed to “a sharp employment decline in food services and drinking places (-105K) and below-trend growth in some other industries.”