Educated Guesses & Wild Stabs: It occurs to me that, as much as I’ve tried to fill this space with amusing anecdotes, I’ve let a dose of negativity creep in recently as I’ve detailed my dislikes of auto sales and presidential news conferences. So today, I’ll reverse that by telling you how much I love the monthly jobs report.
First, it’s important to the markets - these days, more so than almost any other number. This morning’s report, which showed that the economy added a greater-than-forecast 167 thousand jobs, gave a good-news-is-bad-news spin to stocks, sending them lower on fears that this would reduce the possibility of the Fed cutting interest rates. So, if you ever hear an economist or market strategist exulting over fewer jobs, it’s not because he or she is heartless and takes delight in unemployment lines.
Second, it gives all of us - both on the air and off - the chance to play prognosticator. "Squawk Box" regularly features predictions before the number comes out - this morning anchors Becky Quick and Joe Kernen, reporters Steve Liesman and Ron Insana, and guest host Michael Holland of Holland & Co. all predicted the number would be below 100 thousand. The fact that they were all wrong is more a testament to the volatility of this number rather than their skill - but it did result in some hilarious postmortems at 8:30 am after the number came out.
For the record, we played the same game in the control room - the closest was producer Anne Trivett at 105 thousand new jobs. (My guess was 40K - not even close!).
Third - it’s exciting (to me, at least) to watch the number come out and see markets react instantly. The world needs market geeks.
The Breaking News That Wouldn’t Break: NYMEX reporter Sharon Epperson gets the CNBC “Dancing With The Stars” award for today. Sharon was on the floor at 10:30 am ready to report the weekly natural gas inventory number the moment it came out. “Morning Call” anchors Liz Claman and Michelle Caruso-Cabrera tossed to Sharon, who is quite used to having to ad lib for a few moments until the number hits the trading board. 30 seconds went by. Then a minute. No number. Sharon skillfully tap-danced her way through all that until Producer Chip Aiken mercifully had her toss back to the studio. Just as interesting was watching the quizzical looks on the faces of traders as THEY wondered where the heck the number was.
The number FINALLY came out 12 minutes late - due, we later found out, to an equipment failure at the Department of Energy. Years of experience have taught us that when everything goes as planned, that’s the exception, not the rule.