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Jobless Claims 222K: Brand New Retro

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Ahead of today’s opening bell, Initial Jobless Claims results hit the tape, as they do every Thursday morning. And as we’ve seen for the past several weeks — and in broader terms for the past several years — weekly claims numbers keep falling lower. Last week tallied just 222K new claims, a drop of 7000 from the previous week’s downwardly revised 229K.

These are almost astonishingly low numbers. You’d have to go back to before American culture knew who John Travolta was to find fewer relative jobless claims than we see right now, and the labor market looked vastly different back then than it currently does.

Continuing claims were equally as impressive: from the previous week’s roughly 1.95 million to last week’s 1.875 million, for a metric that hasn’t seen 2 million continuing claims on a regular basis since the early era of the Great Recession. We thought this was a tight labor market when the last non-farm payroll report came out? It’s even tighter now.

Back when that employment report came out early this month, it sent shockwaves through the stock market — first with a spike in 10-year bond yields, then to speculation of higher and more frequent Fed interest rate hikes in 2018, which triggered the Volatility Index (VIX). The month of February is on track to be the worst trading month in 6 1/2 years.

Both the Dow and the S&P 500 are trying to fight back from two straight down trading days; the Nasdaq has been in the red three straight sessions. That said, even though early market futures showed the trading indexes in the red yet again, we currently see some modestly green pastures a half-hour ahead of the bell.

Q4 Earnings Continue

Oklahoma-based fracking major Chesapeake Energy (CHK - Free Report) outperformed estimates on both its top- and bottom-lines this morning, posting a 5-cent beat to 30 cents per share, on revenues of $1.26 billion which surpassed the $1.23 billion in the Zacks consensus. Shares for the Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock (which also has a Value-Growth-Momentum score of A) gained 8% in early trading on the news. For more on CHK’s earnings, click here.

Processed food giant Hormel (HRL - Free Report) , however, put up mixed Q1 2018 results this morning. The Zacks Rank #3 company posted 56 cents per share, ahead of the 44 cents expected, on quarterly sales of $2.33 billion which failed to reach the $2.40 billion we were looking for. Full-year guidance was in-line for revenues and increased modestly for earnings per share.

Mark Vickery
Senior Editor

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