S&P futures popped about 5 points as nonfarm payrolls came in slightly better than expected (loss of 36,000 jobs vs. loss of 68,000 expected).
Note that the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reporting an unemployment rate of 9.7 percent, said in the very first paragraph of its unemployment report, said: "it is not possible to quantify precisely the net impact of the winter storms on these measures."
As several traders noted, this report gave bulls a pass, because if it was worse than expected it would be blamed on weather, if it was better than expected bulls would argue that the macro picture is indeed improving and we are setting up for a strong March.
We certainly need some good news on the macro front, after a 10-point drop in consumer confidence and new lows in home sales.
Regardless: the S&P 500 is inching closer to its January 19 high of 1,150. As of yesterday's close, it was just 2.4% shy of that level. A solid rally today for the Nasdaq, which is just 1.2% below its January high, would put that index at a new 18-month high.
Commodity stocks are up; European market have been up all morning due to strength in banks.
1) Greece is up for the fifth out of the last six days, despite protests in the streets; in fact Europe in general has notably outperformed the U.S. this week (the FTSE, for example, is at a 52-week high).
2) Capital One falls 2 percent following a lowered to "neutral" at Goldman Sachs. The downgrade comes as Goldman notes credit card loans have fallen 4 percent this year. Additionally, it cautions that Capital One may be more heavily impacted by new late fee rules, which could reduce its subprime revenues.
3) Overseas Shipholding is down 4 percent after announcing a secondary offering of 3.5 million shares at a price to be determined. Proceeds will be used for "general corporate purposes" and to help the bulk shipper pay down debt.
4) Premier Wen Jiabao of China pledged to crack down on property speculation. Good luck on that: they can't even get a discussion on a property taxes going. They've spent hundreds of billions stockpiling commodities for infrastructure spending and in the process propped up the commodities market in 2009.
The question now is whether the Chinese consumer, with little social safety net, can be convinced to become a world-class consumer. Good luck on that one as well.
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