Market Insider

Jobs Report May Spark Plenty Of Trading—Outside of Stocks


The much-anticipated March jobs report may land on a closed stock market, but it could spark plenty of action elsewhere.

Bonds, futures and foreign-exchange markets will all be open for abbreviated sessions on Friday, so investors will still be able to trade on the report when it's released at 8:30 am ET.

Stock futures trade electronically until 9:15 am, and the bond market is open until 12 pm.

March payrolls could be the first monthly report to show real signs of job growth since the recovery began, and the expectations in the stock market have been running high.

The consensus view is that about 185,000 jobs were added in March, but the estimates range from negative numbers to as high as 400,000.

There are two big variables that economists have calculated into their forecasts, and those are partly responsible for the wide range of estimates.

One is the monthly impact from the government's temporary hiring of Census workers. Economists put that number as high as 125,000. The other is the effect of weather-related disruptions in February that economists say could boost the number for March by more than 100,000.

"What I'm hearing all around the floor is people paring back rather than try and make a major bet going into a highly volatile number,' Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS, told CNBC Thursday. "Everybody's starting to build up for that number tomorrow. It's like Christmas at Easter time. Everybody's looking for a big present."

Jefferies Treasury strategist John Spinello said the bond market will be focused on next week's $165 billion Treasury auction even as the jobs report is released. But Friday's number will still have an impact.

"If it comes out at 100,000 or less, you'll probably get a nice rally," he said. If it's in line with expectations, "it probably drifts and sells off...If it's a really big number, or over 200,000, it's hard to determine how deep it will go."

Some strategists have said a very strong jobs report could be enough to spark a sell off in bonds that could take the yield on the 10-year to the psychological 4 percent level. Bond prices move opposite to yield.

March Jobs Report Preview

Spinello said a strong number will turn the market focus to handicapping when the Fed might start raising rates, and a weak number will result in more fretting about the huge amounts of government debt issuance.

Wednesday's disappointing ADP report, which showed the loss of 23,000 private sector jobs in March, dampened some of the expectations for the government report. Goldman Sachs , in fact, reduced its original estimate of 275,000 non-farm payrolls to 200,000 Thursday, and other economists say their estimates are also now at risk.

Goldman Sachs economist Ed McKelvey, in a note, said he now believes the Census effect could generate just 50,000, well below its original 125,000 estimate. He also said the ADP number cast doubt on his assumption that underlying job growth amounted to 50,000.

"You could get an outsized response. Any outlier up or down, and you'll get an even bigger response when the market's not open," said Deutsche Bank economist Joseph LaVorgna.

LaVorgna has one of the high estimates on the street, at 350,000 non farm payrolls. LaVorgna expects the Census to add 75,000 workers and the snow storm-related effect to be 150,000.

"At this stage you could have a statistical dead cat bounce that could get investors offside and panicked. There's going to be big numbers to come," said LaVorgna, who does not agree with the the widely-held view of a jobless recovery.

He said the monthly job growth could start to come in at 200,000 to 300,000, instead of the expected 50,000 to 100,000 because of the deepness of the jobs cuts.

LaVorgna said Thursday's better-than-expected ISM manufacturing survey also showed some improvement in jobs. While softer this month, the three-month moving average of the jobs component rose to 54.8, the highest level since March, 2005. "Things are going in the right direction," he said.

William Rodgers, Rutgers University economics professor, is not nearly as optimistic. He only expects to see a payroll number of 50,000 to 100,000, and he expects the recovery in jobs to be slow. "Hopefully we'll see another increase in temporary employment. I also want to see hours worked a week grow," he said.

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