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US stock futures rally, point higher as February non-farm payrolls beat forecasts

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2.15pm: Labour market stronger

US jobs growth was more than expected in February, putting the labor market recovery back on track amid a decline in new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, higher vaccination rates and additional economic stimulus from the Biden administration.

Non-farm payrolls jumped by 379,000 last month after rising 166,000 in January; economists had forecast February payrolls increasing by 182,000 jobs. In December, payrolls had fallen for the first time in eight months

Though the unemployment rate fell to 6.2% last month from 6.3% in January, economists believe it continues to be understated by people misclassifying themselves as being “employed but absent from work.”

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell offered an optimistic view of the labor market in a speech on Thursday, but cautioned that a return to full employment this year was “highly unlikely.”

Economists believe the labor market will gather steam in the spring and through summer, with vaccinations increasing daily and a boost to hiring expected from President Biden’s $1.9 trillion recovery plan, which is under consideration by the Senate, having been passed by the House of Representatives earlier this week.

Robert Alster, CIO at investment management firm Close Brothers Asset Management commented: “The dramatic increase in nonfarm payroll figures is a sign of progress as Biden completes his sixth week in office. However, it comes after a relatively weak ADP reading for private payroll figures earlier in the week, painting a picture of a labour market of two halves. Wage inflation remained steady – growth looks somewhat unlikely as lower-paid workers re-join the payrolls in the coming months as hospitality and retail sectors open up.”

“Nonetheless, Biden’s pledge for all US adults to have received the vaccine by the end of May, a drop off in coronavirus cases, and tentative relaxation of restrictions all bode well for a continued improvement in the employment numbers. A further boost will be given once the $1.9tn Covid-19 stimulus bill reaches the Resolute desk. With the injection of the vaccine and cash, the President will be hoping he can get the US economy back on the front foot,” he added.

US stock futures rallied following the stronger-than-expected employment report, now pointing to opening gains after earlier signalling fresh falls, although government bond yields also extended their recent surge.

7.20am: Caution ahead of jobs data

US stocks were set for further falls on Friday as investors awaited the February non-farm payrolls report for fresh insights into the health of the US economy.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrials Average pointed 0.3% lower, while those for the broader S&P 500 shed 0.4% – the S&P 500 is on track for its third week of declines having closed on Thursday at its lowest level since the end of January. Futures for the technology-heavy Nasdaq-100 were the worst-off, however, down 0.6%, suggesting that the sector will continue to lead the retreat.

Stocks have stumbled in recent weeks as a climb in bond yields has called into question whether low-interest rates, which have propelled valuations higher for much of the past year, can continue for much longer as the economy recovers from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The yield on 10-year Treasury notes ticked up again on Friday, to 1.557%, from 1.547% on Thursday, the highest level for the benchmark borrowing cost since February last year. The latest climb in yields came after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell provided no sign the central bank would seek to stem the rise when he spoke at The Wall Street Journal Jobs Summit on Thursday

February US jobs report, due to be released at 8.30am ET, is expected to show that the economy created 210,000 jobs last month. That would add to signs of a slow improvement in the labor market, after initial weekly jobless claims on Thursday reached their lowest level in three months.

The jobs report may not sway bond yields much, however, because the data are unlikely to affect the progress of President Biden’s new stimulus package through the Senate or the roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine.

Four things to watch on Friday:

  • Oil prices rallied for a second day after OPEC and a Russia-led coalition of oil producers kept most of their production cuts in place, taking the market by surprise, with Brent crude, the benchmark in international energy markets, rose 1.9% to $68.02 a barrel
  • Reddit, the social media platform at the heart of the recent retail stock trading frenzy, said on Friday it had appointed Drew Vollero as its first chief financial officer. Vollero, who served as Snap Inc’s first CFO and was a former executive of Mattel Inc, will lead Reddit’s finance team starting later this month and will report to Jen Wong, the company’s chief operating officer
  • Blockchain payments firm Ripple has not experienced any fallout in its Asia Pacific business after being sued by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company’s chief executive officer said on Friday
  • Texas’ power grid operator Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) made a $16 billion pricing error in the week of the winter storm that led to power outages across the state, Potomac Economics, which monitors the state’s power market, said

Story by ProactiveInvestors


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