Markets’ Focus Moves from Jobs to the Fed
Business + Economy

Markets’ Focus Moves from Jobs to the Fed


After a stunningly bad August employment report, traders will turn their focus in the week ahead to any jobs and consumer-related data that could help prove the weakest jobs growth in eight months was just an anomaly.

The August nonfarm payrolls totaled 142,000, well below the recent trend and the first sub-200,000 number in seven months. The report took some of the steam out of market speculation that strong U.S. data would push the Federal Reserve to use more hawkish language in its mid-September statement.

Related: The Job Market's Hot Streak Is Over ...

Strategists say headlines on Ukraine and Russia, which were to observe a cease-fire, could be a catalyst for markets that have just a small number of major U.S. data points to consider.

There is JOLTs, or job openings and turnover data Tuesday, and that is a report closely watched by the Fed. There is also retail sales Friday, which will be a key look at the consumer as back-to-school shopping got underway in August.

Apple could steal the spotlight Tuesday when it launches what is expected to be a pair of new iPhones and an iWatch.

"In that you don't have a huge amount of U.S. data, probably the most important data you have next week globally is the China data," said Jeffrey Rosenberg, BlackRock's Chief Investment Strategist of Fixed Income. Persistent weakness in China has been an issue for markets, and there is Chinese trade data Monday; inflation data Thursday, and industrial production and retail sales next Saturday.

Related: Could Stocks Suffer a September Shock?

"You're in between the jobs data and the meeting, and you start to look ahead to the most important data which is the Fed meeting," Rosenberg said. The Fed meeting Sept. 16 and 17 has been the source of conjecture this past week with focus on possibility the Fed could drop the language saying it would keep rates low for a "considerable period." If it does that, it would set the clocking ticking on an anticipated rate hike sometime next year.

Rosenberg said the bond market is likely to keep its focus on the Fed. Yields rose Thursday after the European Central Bank announced a major new stimulus program, but they slipped back Friday after the jobs report came in well below the 225,000 expected.

"Retail sales is probably the most meaningful print, but there was a lot of movement in front of the payrolls. Now I think, you're in between payrolls and the meeting, and there will be a lot of debate about whether or not this is the meeting at which the language will change," he said.

The inconclusive jobs report may keep the Fed from moving on changing the language, he said. Economists widely expect the Fed to wind down quantitative easing in the fall, and then move toward a first rate hike in the middle of next year or later if U.S. data continues to show improvement. Bond traders have been gaming when the Fed will signal the rate hike.

Related: Why September Is the Most Volatile Month for Stocks

"My own view, and this is admittedly influenced by (the jobs) number, is there's no rush to make a change," he said. "You can leave the language unchanged, and then use the press conference to reflect your shifting view."

Fed Chair Janet Yellen holds a quarterly press briefing after the September meeting.

Rosenberg said the markets will also focus on the large amount of new issuance expected in the credit market in the coming week. Certainly, the stock market will also focus on issuance with Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, an anticipated high-flier, embarking on a road show ahead of its Sept. 18 IPO. Alibaba would be the biggest IPO ever, if it raises the more than $19 billion expected, surpassing Visa's $17.9 billion IPO.

After the European Central Bank announced rate cuts and an asset purchase program this past week, European data will also be a focus and traders have their eye on German trade data Monday and comments from ECB President Mario Drahgi at the Eurofi Financial Forum in Milan Thursday. Eurozone industrial production is reported Friday. The Eurogroup meets in Milan Friday to discuss banking union and Greece.

Related: 10 Stocks That Didn't Take the Summer Off

The market standout in the past week was the dollar index, which completed an eighth week of gains—the longest streak since 1997 and also the best since the creation of the euro in 1999. The euro, a heavy influence in the dollar index, lost 1.4 percent for the week and broke below the key 1.30 level for the first time since July 2013.

"That would be a trend to watch," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. "You had a pretty aggressive dollar/euro movement that would be a trade to keep an eye on."

For that reason, Hogan said the stocks of commodities-related companies and multinationals exposed to Europe could continue to feel the heat in the coming week on dollar strength. Commodities, like oil, gold and wheat were all lower on the week, as the dollar gained. West Texas Intermediate crude was off $1.16, finishing Friday at $93.29 with a one-week loss of more than 2.5 percent.

"Counterbalance to that, this pull back in energy prices is already a positive to the consumer," he said. "That already has manifested itself in back-to-school sales. The checks we've had from retail have been pretty good…we're going to find out at the end of next week if back-to-school was successful."

Stocks in the past week were higher, but the Russell 2,000 lagged, with a 0.4 percent loss. The Dow edged within a point of its all-time high, ending the week up 0.4 percent at 17,137. The S&P 500 regained 2000 on Friday, to end the week at 2,007, a weekly gain of 0.5 percent and a new closing high. "It feels like barring a major change in the Russian, Ukraine situation, we can have an up week," said Hogan.

What to Watch:

Earnings: Campbell Soup, Korn/Ferry, Casey's General, NCI Building Systems, Pep Boys
3:00 p.m.: Consumer credit

Apple's unveils new i-stuff
Earnings: Barnes and Noble, Krispy Kreme, Burlington Stores, Palo Alto Networks
7:30 a.m.: NFIB small business optimism
10:00 a.m.: Fed Vice Chair Daniel Tarullo testifies on Dodd Frank
10:00 a.m.: JOLTs job openings and turnover data
1:00 p.m.: 3-year note auction

Earnings: Lands' End, Vera Bradley, Manchester United, Restoration Hardware, Five Below, Men's Wearhouse
7:00 a.m.: Mortgage applications
10:00 a.m.: Wholesale trade
10:30 a.m.: Oil inventories
1:00 p.m.: 10-year note auction

Earnings: Kroger, Lululemon Athletica, Ulta Salon
8:30 a.m.: Unemployment claims
10:30 a.m.: Natural gas inventories
1:00 p.m.: 30-year bond auction
2:00 p.m.: Treasury budget

Earnings: Darden Restaurants
8:30 a.m.: Retail sales
8:30 a.m.: Import/export prices
9:55 a.m.: Consumer sentiment
10:00 a.m.: Business inventories 

This article originally appeared in CNBC.

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