Jobs report needs to silence rising worries about the economy

In addition to the jobs report, there is the Fed’s beige book on the economy Wednesday and new home sales Tuesday. But after delayed and weaker data, it’s the jobs report that matters most. The employment report is one data point that has been released as normal through the shutdown, and in the January data, there was a huge upside surprise of 304,000 nonfarm payrolls.

“All eyes are on the job market. If businesses lose faith and they stop hiring, and job growth starts slowing, then we do have problems,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. Economists expect wages to rise by 0.3 percent and unemployment to fall a tenth to 3.9 percent, according to Refinitiv.

“I think companies should stay steadfast in their hiring,” Zandi said. He expects job growth of about 200,000 but notes there could be a payback for the huge amount of hires in January.

“I think the economy is fragile, growth is below trend. It’s very vulnerable. The only thing that will keep it together is if businesses keep hiring and the job market holds up, and I think it will unless the president doesn’t settle with the Chinese on trade, or there’s a hard Brexit or some other geopolitical event,” said Zandi.

The Federal Reserve has paused in its interest rate hiking because of the slowing economy and concerns about financial conditions. But the Fed could move forward on rates again, if inflation begins to pick up, and for that reason the wage data in the jobs report would also be key were it to show new wage pressures.

There are a few speeches by Fed officials, including Fed Chairman Jerome Powell who speaks at Stanford University Friday night at an economic conference.

Market focus will also be on the European Central Bank which meets Thursday.

“I think people are expecting some detail about a long-term loan operation,” said Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex. The ECB is expected to allow European banks to extend the duration of some short-term loans. Chandler said the ECB could also push back on its time frame on raising interest rates, which it has said would not be until after the summer.

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