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Behold the Bulletproof Economy

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Thursday, October 4, 2018

It’s Thursday again ahead of the bell, which means it’s time for another earth-shattering Initial Jobless Claims report. Last week, first-time claims fell by 8000 from a slightly upwardly revised previous week to 207K — matching the 4-week moving average. These numbers are back down toward those historic lows we had been witnessing back before Hurricane Florence struck the Coastal Carolinas: we were on a fast track to sub-200K, and it looks like we’re pointed that way again.

Continuing Claims continue to evaporate as well, with last week’s 1.65 million longer-term unemployment claims smashing low barriers again and again. The 4-week average in continuing claims, at 1.66 million, is now the lowest figure we’ve seen since before President Nixon was fearing impeachment.

Yesterday, after the market opened, we saw favorable reads from the U.S. Services sector for September. PMI Services ratcheted up to 53.5 from the previous read of 52.9, and ISM Non-manufacturing hit 61.6% — better than both the previous month’s tally of 58.5% and the consensus estimate from analysts. With Construction jobs from the latest ADP (ADP - Free Report) survey holding their own, this amounts to a domestic economy hitting on all cylinders. Factory Orders for August are due out after the bell.

This is no surprise, of course, to market participants, who continue to enjoy record highs in the Dow index. Cautious observers of current indexes must even admit we’re not seeing any meaningful negative impact from either Hurricane Florence or trade war tariffs being exchanged between the U.S. and China. Why, at this stage, one couldn’t be faulted for considering whether or not we currently exist in a “bulletproof economy.”

We have one more major economic report before the bell tomorrow, in order to know for sure. That is the non-farm payroll results for September, including a fresh Unemployment Rate. Monthly new jobs numbers are expected to tick down from August’s 201K, but if ADP’s positive surprise is to be considered, we may see better-than-anticipated numbers. This would further the “bulletproof economy” narrative.

Even if we do see some headwinds from the Carolinas or on trade policy, the U.S. labor market needs fewer than 100K new jobs each month to make up for the rate of retiring Americans in the workforce. Thus, the range of expectations for tomorrow’s headline, currently between 170K and 190K, would amount to pure gravy on the upside of domestic employment. In other words, “bulletproof” until further notice.

Mark Vickery
Senior Editor

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