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February 8, 2016
"While we may want to normalize [interest rates], you can't force it"
The week in review...
Jobs: Earning respect Though below consensus at an increase of 158k, Friday's jobs report had enough good news to keep pessimists at bay. Most notably, average hourly earnings rose 0.5% in January vs. December, above consensus; hours worked also increased — a solid win-win for wage-earners. The labor participation rate also inched higher, to 62.7% — possibly due to workers coming off the sidelines as opportunities increase.
Consumers: Rainy day people December saw household spending stall, even as disposable (after-tax) income increased 0.4% in December from the prior month. With gasoline prices down some 37% since July 2015, for now the windfall appears to be going into savings accounts — personal savings as a percent of disposable income reached 5.5% at the end of 2015, highest in three years. While that may ultimately help confidence, it's less positive for immediate economic growth — some 70% of which is driven by consumer spending.
Services: Still growing, but… With the manufacturing sector contracting (December factory orders were down 2.9% vs. November), hope for growth has focused on the 2/3 of the economy fueled by the service sector. But services growth might be faltering: ISM reported its non-manufacturing PMI for January at a lower-than-expected 53.5, down from December's 55.3 (PMIs above 50 indicate expansion; below 50, contraction). With, services growth could be key for the overall US economy in 2016.
Bond markets: Negative space Lack of demand helped push down European sovereign yields last week, with the ECB's initiatives to awaken growth so far failing to gain traction. The slippage was large: more than $2.4 trillion of European government debt yields less than zero percent — about 38% of the Bloomberg Eurozone Sovereign Bond Index. For 2-year maturities, German sovereigns briefly traded below -0.50%. The only mainstream 2-year sovereigns yielding above zero were the UK (0.363%) and Portugal (0.368%).
Germany: Jobs vs. manufacturing January saw Germany's unemployment rate fall to a record low of 6.2%, the lowest since reunification. The number of people with a job rose by a seasonally-adjusted 44,000 in December — a good omen as the country tries to absorb some 1 million migrants in 2015 alone. As more people work, prospects for domestic consumption-driven growth could improve; that will be most welcome as German factory orders fell more than expected in December — in part a reflection of slowing demand from China.
Signs of the times:
Domestic Demand Offsets Exports to Keep U.K. Factories Afloat — Bloomberg
Oil-Price Poker: Why the Saudis Won't Fold 'Em — Wall Street Journal
Fischer Says Fed's Next Decision Unclear Amid Global Issues — Bloomberg
Automakers Overcome Storm to Post Best January Sales in a Decade — Bloomberg
...The week ahead:
GLOBAL ECONOMIC CALENDAR: February 7 – 13, 2016
Europe, UK, Africa, Mideast
Japan, Asia Ex Japan & Pac Rim
Super Bowl 50 (football)
China: foreign exchange reserves
Labor market conditions
Japan: current account, wages, economy watchers survey
Small business optimism, Job openings, wholesale inventories
Fed Chair Yellen Senate testimony (2 days)
Portugal: consumer prices
Mexico: industrial production
Russia: trade balance
Retail sales, import prices, business inventories
Portugal, Italy, Germany, Netherlands: GDP
Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Times, Xinhua, China Daily
Purchasing Managers Indexes (PMI) measure the manufacturing and services sectors in an economy, based on survey data collected from a representative panel of manufacturing and services firms. PMI greater than 50 indicated economic expansion; below 50, contraction.
The Federal Reserve System (Fed) is responsible for the formulation of a policy designed to promote economic growth, full employment, stable prices, and a sustainable pattern of international trade and payments.
The European Central Bank (ECB) is responsible for the monetary system of the European Union (EU) and the euro currency.
Gross Domestic Product ("GDP") is an economic statistic which measures the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time.
All investments involve risk, including possible loss of principal.
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The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up and investors may not get back the amounts originally invested, and can be affected by changes in interest rates, in exchange rates, general market conditions, political, social and economic developments and other variable factors. Investment involves risks including but not limited to, possible delays in payments and loss of income or capital. Neither Legg Mason nor any of its affiliates guarantees any rate of return or the return of capital invested.
Equity securities are subject to price fluctuation and possible loss of principal. Fixed–income securities involve interest rate, credit, inflation and reinvestment risks; and possible loss of principal. As interest rates rise, the value of fixed income securities falls.
International investments are subject to special risks including currency fluctuations, social, economic and political uncertainties, which could increase volatility. These risks are magnified in emerging markets.
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